Jenna Starborn

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 4, 2003

Jenna Starborn by ArmadilloCon 26’s GOH, Sharon Shinn

Twelve people attended this discussion and 3 others emailed in their comments. Eight people started the book with five reading to the end. The same five had all read this author before.

Using the classic Jane Eyre as the basis for a science fiction novel intrigued some readers while others were more ambivalent. The source material was easy to identify with a few updated twists, such as a cyborg wife instead of a crazy one. Plus in this retelling our heroine is a vat-grown, plucky nuclear reactor technician. There is a governess who is ruined by a lover, but needless to say Jenna manages to eventually find true love with her own Everett. Some people enjoyed ferreting out the similarities between the books while others liked the non JE parts better.

One reader called it “a serious chick novel” that needed more action. The women present rejected this label. But another reader found the book very readable “in a Gothic romance kind of way” and thought it would be a good book to introduce young girls to SF.

We speculated on the author’s motivations for using JE as a framework. Trying to retrofit moral and social values from 1847 to the far future was like squeezing the future into a Victorian corset for some readers. The concept of a rigidly tiered caste system was seen as interesting but implausible in today’s morality. But others liked her Pan-Equist religion and accepted the reasons for why some areas of research still thrived and why some things did not get attention or improvement.

All in all, we thought this was an interesting literary experiment and wondered what other works could be retrofitted to SF.

— Judy Strange