Maul / Tricia Sullivan

The April book for The Feminist Science Fiction Book Club is Maul by Tricia Sullivan. I’m really looking forward to discussing this book with the group because there’s a lot of meat in it (euphemistically even). I also am really confused by a lot of it, so I’m hoping my fellow book clubbers will clear things up for me.

Cover of Maul

I loved this book for all the vivid images through. For example, the very first chapter starts off with the main character Sun, a mall rat, furiously masturbating with a gun. I used to wish I had a boyfriend but now I know better. Even a hypothetical boyfriend wouldn’t understand. How I feel. About my gun. Sun then proceeds to go shopping with her friends Suk Hee and Keri at the maul in New Jersey where they live. I assume it’s a maul because of the New Jersey accent, but the play on words is apparent when the violence starts. After arriving at the maul, a rival group of girls challenges Sun’s group, and guns come out. Thereafter there’s chapter after chapter of shooting and interludes.

In alternating chapters, Ms. Sullivan also writes about Meniscus, who is a test subject. Men have mostly been killed off by Y-plagues. The few that remain are protected in castellations and are prized and paraded as possible sperm donors for real children. Meniscus is a clone. The scientists have mutated a Y-plague, infected him and now watch him to see what happens. Into that mix is thrown another man. Some higher-ups in the business running the lab want him killed. He’s stuck in same environment with Meniscus so he’ll catch the Y-plague and die. Only he doesn’t. And neither does Meniscus who was also expected to succumb.

Both of these stories put women in the driver’s seat. Sun, Suk Hee and Keri battle with guns blazing a gang lead by Krazy4Glu and 10esha. Only one of the lab managers in Meniscus’ story is male, and he plays only a very small (yet important) part. There’s all sorts of commentary on gender embedded throughout. The castellation idea compares very nicely to the Ōoku of Fumi Yoshinaga’s manga (review), though in a near future dystopian setting rather than a historical one.

However, I never ever understood what the connection was between the two stories. The back cover states But its not only their own lives they [Sun's group] will have to fight for — it’s that of a man [presumably Meniscus] trapped in another world. I never grokked how Sun had anything to do with Meniscus or vice versa. I really feel like I missed out on some possible meaning here.

I also started tuning out during a portion of Sun’s story when Suk Hee plays a video game to alter their reality in the maul. As she plays, she plants things in the maul for their benefit and reconfigures parts of it as well. This turn for the surreal isn’t to my taste. Perhaps the whole Sun storyline is a virtual reality being run out of Meniscus’ lab, which would explain why Suk Hee can video game her way to success. I missed that explanation, though.

Interesting. But confusing.

More in Books (31 of 167 articles)