Brenda Cooper

Reading Recommendation: The Hearts of Horses

Molly Gloss.
I first discovered her when she wrote a wonderful science fiction book about a generation ship called The Dazzle of Day. This was before she wrote Wild Life, the book all of Seattle read one year (except me). Her short fiction still shows up sometimes in genre magazines, and it’s very, very good.
He latest book, The Hearts of Horses, is a classic, wonderful example of world building. You heard me – that thing we do in sci fi when we take our readers to strange new worlds. Only she did it with our world, in Oregon, around the first World War. There is not much plot to this book, and certainly no particular tension to force you from page to page. Not even any particular mystery.
But oh, can Molly spin a world into real.
Her characters are us. Halting, stuttering, unsure, strong, brave, matter-of-fact, shiny — all the things we are. This world of less than a hundred years ago feels so real you can smell it and feel it, and yet so far away it has to be more than a hundred years – it just does. Of course, it wasn’t. But a time when there were almost no cars, when women knitted socks for the boys in the war and the German families in town had a bit of a hard time.
And yet it is also relevant to today. Like any good book, it illuminates our own world. For example, in the first world war, America suffered for her soldiers. America grew wheat and victory gardens and gave up eating meat to feed the soldiers. America acted almost as one. And was proud and shamed by what we did in war. It made me think of how different we are from our grandparents – the story now is consume! consume for the war effort!
So if you’re a writer working on world building, Molly is worth reading. Also if you just want some really delightful feminist historical fiction.