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Essays & Reviews
  The Slave and the Free


  Alldera the Runner finds a free and challenging life among the Riding Women, nomadic warriors of the Grasslands whose ways are deeply alien to her, while a settlement of turbulent refugees from the Holdfast make their own claims on her and her child. She must fight her way to her own true path, and choose where it will lead her.  
  Buy This Book
"For those who used to read science fiction but left it when they grew up and it didn't, Motherlines is a superb reason to return. For stalwart loyalists who have kept reading despite repeated disappointments, Motherlines is a dream come true. . . Happily, Charnas's unfailing realism steers her clear of propagandizing. Despite its beauty, [her] amazon society is no stainless utopia. "
Seattle Star

"Motherlines . . . has a robust, earthy beauty. [Charnas] has a genius for grasping ideas and dreams that are in the air and making them concrete and dramatic in her fiction."
Marge Piercy
Woman on the Edge of Time

"Gritty and vivid, this is a searching and often fascinating exploration of femaleness — not femininity — under stress."
Publishers Weekly

  "Full of adventure and intrigue . . . Charnas has created a fascinating tribal society made up entirely of women; more importantly, she has created characters whose vitality is personal and not gender dependent. . . With no preaching, Charnas has made a provocative feminist statement that is also fine science fiction. . . a powerful, moving novel of ideas. "
  The Toronto Star

  "Motherlines is a refreshingly well written novel with clearly developed, interesting characters . . . a joyous book."
  Minnesota Daily

  "A striking leap of science fiction imagination. . . fascinating and provocative."
  Barnard Bulletin

  "A terrific vision of feminist empowerment. "

Alldera crouched tensely by the river, staring at tracks in the soft mud. The water was shallow here, and something had crossed to the far side; no, two things — two strings of tracks separated and came together again.

She had not seen a living being in all the months since her escape from her homeland, nor had she expected to — other than perhaps the monsters with which legend peopled the wild country, but she had never really believed in those. Now she looked fearfully back over her shoulder.

There rose the valley wall and then the mountains, beyond which lay the strip of coastal plain men called the Holdfast — her country. In the bloody confusion of fighting there — men killing other men, and killing femmish slaves, over food — she had made her lone escape.

Now, it seemed, she was alone no longer.

No man of the Holdfast, no femmish slave fleeing as Alldera had fled, had made these marks. She traced the shape of the deep prints with her fingers. Something heavy had walked here, on round, blunt feet. The marks were as big as her fist, with a sharp angle sign in the middle of each. Monsters' tracks. Weakened by months wandering as a scavenger in the Wild, she squatted there, fighting back terror at the same time that she trembled with eagerness for contact with life, any life. At first, she'd had hopes of finding other runaway slaves whom she could join. That hope, and the fierce exhilaration of at long last being free, had soon faded into relentless anxiety. Choosing to cross the border of the Holdfast into the fearsome Wild, she had chosen new dangers.

Like starvation, for food was hard to come by. Like the unwelcome pregnancy that rode in her body like a parasite. Like the monsters, whatever they were, that had made these tracks.

After a while she climbed to her feet, hung her half empty food bag over her shoulder, and began to follow the tracks up toward the western rim of the valley. The climb was hard on her wasted muscles, but she was glad to be moving and doing, even though she was perhaps pursuing her own death.

That was better than just waiting hopelessly for it, like a slave.

    Read more about the Holdfast series >>    
Electric Story e-version in preparation
Tor/Orb SF Classics Trade paper May 1999 ISBN: 0312869126  
Berkeley Paperback February 1981 ISBN: 0425050971  
G.P. Putnam Paperback 1978 ISBN: 0425050971