August Books 17) The Faded Sun Trilogy; and the Bechdel test

17) The Faded Sun Trilogy

Having rather bounced off both Cherryh’s Hugo winners, Cyteen and Downbelow Station, I’m glad to report that I found the Faded Sun trilogy much easier to get into. She slightly lost me at the climax of the last book, but apart from that I found them all very readable. It’s a story of questing for destiny and of relationships between three different species, humans, the warrior mri, and the regul. Cherryh gives her aliens an effective and convincingly different psychology, particularly by having us follow the human characters who try to get closest to them.

All three books pass the Bechdel test, if we allow it to apply to female aliens: Melein, a mri priestess, is one of the key characters and she confronts other priestesses at several crucial points (notably the climax of the second book).

On the Bechdel test: a couple of people queried whether it is really meaningful or reasonable to apply it in this way. To be honest, I am open-minded as to whether or not I will get much from doing this, but it seems to me a worthwhile and easy experiment. I was inspired by Charlie Stross’s applying it to his own work and ‘s Bechdelian analysis of Doctor Who, and thought that while there is no way I’m going to apply it retrospectively, I can easily enough track the Bechdel score of books I read from now on. I admit that there is an immediate problem of applicability, in that the classic Bechdel test explicitly applies to the cinema rather than the written word; and a slightly more subtle issue to do with background rather than foreground activities (does Proust pass, when his male narrator hears about hot girl-on-girl action offstage? I would say yes). But I’ll give it a try for a few weeks and see what I learn from it.

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