Book Review: Nomansland by Lesley Hauge

Square Fish
243 pp.

Nomansland is a YA post-apocalyptic novel. Our Heroine is a girl named Keller, who is a “Tracker” or warrior for a restrictive and extremely dysfunctional all-female community living on an isolated island. (The community has extremely strict rules of behavior and appearance that are harshly punished if disobeyed.) There are no men in the community, and Keller has been raised to view men as enemies, though the island has apparently never been attacked.

She falls in with a group of girls who have discovered an abandoned home filled with a variety of items that are proscribed by the leaders of her community. The girls are fascinated by the apparent luxuries of the past but Keller is reluctant to participate in the girls’ fun and games. The girls are eventually caught and punished, except for Keller. This is apparently because the leader of the community has apparently decided that she wants to groom Keller for leadership. (Though what exactly the leader wanted

I was not very impressed with this book. I had absolutely no interest in any of the characters and the worldbuilding is sketchy at best. You get the general feeling that the writer was more interested in creating an atmosphere and herding the reader along through the story than in exploring the world or the characters. For instance, there is no real explanation for why the community leaders are keeping the Trackers (the people in charge of ensuring the safety of the community) in the dark about contact with the outside.

There is also no real explanation for how the community reproduces itself if there are no men in the community. The writer seems to be implying artificial insemination, but the tech level seems too low. If they were using some variation of method implied in the excerpt from The Chrysalids at the beginning of the book, it was never explored. (Frankly, a storyline involving how they are reproducing would have been more interesting than the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” story line the writer was in a committed relationship with.)

From the writer’s interview at the end of the book, the writer claims that she wanted to explore feminism, friendship between women, and the way women’s organizations and committees were so grim and humorless. (I find the part about “friendship between women” to be extremely funny. There are no actual friendships in this book. I am also a little puzzled about what women’s organizations she was involved in, that she would find them all to a woman grim and humorless.) She also says that she was inspired by something from The Chrysalids, but I was reminded more of Suzy McKee Charnas Holdfast novels. (Mostly because one of the many rules of Keller’s community is, no name can end in a y or an i. This reminded me of a scene in The Furies, where a group of women decided to rename themselves because they felt that names ending in y or i are diminutive and degrading.) This was not one of the best post-apocalyptic novels I have read, and also not one of the best commentaries on feminism I have read.

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Filed under apocalyptic, book, book review, Review: Book, science fiction, young adult

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