By Tanith Lee
Paperback, 159 pages
1979, Daw Books
Magdala Cled, known only as “Ugly”, lives in a world where people are bred to be beautiful, healthy, normal. But she was born by a natural birth and is seen as a genetic mistake among the perfection of her peers. When a man shows up at her table one day during lunch, Magdala is presented with an opportunity that changes her entire life, but at what cost?
Jacob, over at Red Star Reviews introduced me to Vintage Sci-Fi month, wherein you read any sci-fi that was written before you were born. In my case, that’s prior to 1988. I featured Electric Forest on my Instagram a few weeks back for #coverwars and decided to start my year with it.
There’s just something about Tanith’s sci-fi (more so than her fantasy) that wraps me up completely in her worlds and characters. Her writing is so rich and I can’t help but feel what her main character feels. She packed a lot into just under 160 pages and this was a thought-provoking read. Without saying too much about the plot, Magdala is given the chance to have her consciousness transferred from her slightly deformed, ugly body, into that of a beautiful woman. Her original body must still be kept alive however, as her brain is what controls her new body. The plot becomes even more complex and the twist at the end surprised me.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t do a lot of deep reading. Normally I don’t sit around after finishing a book to really think about it. But Electric Forest presented a world where someone could transfer their consciousness into a nearly indestructible android and control it in every way they could control their former body. Potentially, if the original body was well cared for, someone could expect to live much longer than they normally would. A tempting proposition! But of course, as the story proposes, there are a host of problems that come with this opportunity.
And of course, I think the cover art is fabulous, and fairly creepy, especially now that I know it reflects the content of the book. If you’re looking for a quick read, with a heavy dose of sci-fi themes, check out Electric Forest.