The Margarets I give it 3 stars

Sheri S. Tepper’s middle novels—the half-dozen from After Long Silence (1987) to Sideshow (1992), give or take one at each end—were so good that I vowed to read anything she published. She was able to summon up a sense that there’s something out there in the dark, something large and deeply malevolent. Thematically, she filled her novels with a hard-headed feminism, a seamless marriage between epic environmentalism and individual decency, and surefooted pacing. She also had an uncanny ability to heighten suspense by turning the camera around at just the right moment: to show the reader some crucial (often dangerous) facts the protagnoists didn’t know, or vice-versa. Her finest novels (Grass (1989) and Raising the Stones (1990), at least) are, for me, among the very best science-fiction novels out there.

My patience has been sorely tested, however; the nine novels that followed form a nearly linear trend. They came out roughly once a year, each slightly but predictably worse than the last. Plague of Angels (1993) was a great near-miss; The Companions (2003) was silly. Still, a vow is a vow, and I still scan the science-fiction section, for new novels between Tarr and Tolkien.

It’s been four years since the last one (plus a year before I noticed, since no one seems to have stocked the hardcover version), but The Margarets rewarded both my patience and hers. It’s s solid novel, with a likable protagonist(s), and a clever trio of linked main plot devices. True, it’s a little clumsy in places, a little convoluted, and a little less menacing than it could have been. But it was still satisfying on the whole, and the eco-feminism is as bracing and urgent as ever. I hope this is a good sign of things to come.