Professor Baker reviews High Couch of Silistra

Read Professor Baker’s original reviews of High Couch and other fine books at:  https://profesorbaker.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/bookreview-asmsg-high-couch-of-silistra-the-silistra-quartet-book-1/

#BookReview #ASMSG High Couch of Silistra (The Silistra Quartet Book 1)

One woman’s mythic quest for self-realization in a distant tomorrow…

Her sensuality was at the core of her world, her quest beyond the civilized stars.

Aristocrat. Outcast. Picara. Slave. Ruler.

“Engrossing characters in a marvelous adventure.” – Charles N. Brown, Locus Magazine

“The amazing and erotic adventures of the most beautiful courtesan in tomorrow’s universe” – Frederik Pohl

“The best single example of prostitution used in fantasy is Janet Morris’ Silistra series… Estri’s character is most like that of Ishtar who describes herself as “‘a prostitute compassionate am I’” because she “symbolizes the creative submission to the demands of instinct, to the chaos of nature …the free woman, as opposed to the domesticated woman”. Linking Estri with these lunar and water symbols is not difficult because of the moon’s eternal virginity (the strength of integrity) links with her changeability (the prostitute’s switching of lovers). […] Morris strengthens the moon imagery by having Estri as a well-keepress because wells, fountains, and the moon as the orb which controls water have long been associated with fertility, […] In a sense, she is like the moon because she is apparently eternal, never waxing or waning except in her pursuit of the quest; she is the prototypical wanderer like the moon and Ishtar. She is the eternal night symbol of the moon in opposition to the Day-Keepers […] At her majority (her three hundredth birthday), she is given a silver-cubed hologram letter from her mother, containing a videotape of her conception by the savage bronzed barbarian god from another world. […] If Estri’s mother then acts as a bawd, willing her lineage as Well-Keepress to her daughter, then Estri’s great-grandmother Astria as foundress of the Well becomes a further mother-bawd figure when she offers her prophetic advice in her letter: “Guard Astria for you may lose it, and more. Beware of one who is not as he seems. Stray not in the port city of Baniev …look well about you, for your father’s daughter’s brother seeks you”. Having no brother that she knows of does not stay Estri from undertaking the heroic quest of finding her father.” – Anne K. Kaler, The Picara: From Hera to Fantasy Heroine

“Long ago the human colonists of Silsitra waged a war so vicious that centuries later, the planet has not recovered.  Men and women alike suffer from infertility — the deadliest legacy of that deadly war. Because the birthrate is so low, the Silistrans value above all the ability to bear children… and their social order is based on fertility and sexual prowess. On a planet desperate for population, women hold the keys to power. These are the adventures of Estri, Well-Keepress of Astria, and holder of the ultimate seat of control:  The High Couch of Silistra.” — Jim Baen, publisher, Baen Books
High Couch of Silistra, by Janet Morris, is a superb book. It is Book One in the Silistra Quartet. The other books in the series are: The Golden Sword (Book 2), Wind From The Abyss (Book 3), and The Carnelian Throne (Book 4).
      
First, let us begin at the beginning, and therefore place Book One in its historical context before looking at the current edition:

Returning Creation is the alternate title for High Couch of Silistra, the first book in the Silistra quartet, by Janet Morris. Published in 1977 byBantam Books, High Couch of Silistra was the debut title of her writing career. It was one of the first science fiction/fantasy books to include bi-sexual/pan-sexual characters and erotic themes. The series went on to have more than four million copies in print and was also published in French, Italian and German.

Charles N. Brown, Locus Magazine, is quoted on the Baen Books reissues of the series as saying, “Engrossing characters in a marvelous adventure,” andFrederik Pohl is quoted there as saying “The amazing and erotic adventures of the most beautiful courtesan in tomorrow’s universe.”

High Couch of Silistra front cover.jpg

1977 Edition

Blurb: “The original human colonists of Silistra nearly destroyed their planet in a war so vicious the populace had to go into underground shelters for centuries and, even many centuries later, the planet has not recovered. Infertility is one of the worst problems facing the planet’s populace—thanks to the fallout of that deadly war. The women of Silistra are treasured and have established Wells where the male population can attempt to create a child, if they are fertile.

In The High Couch of Silistra, Estri, Well-Keepress of Astria and holder of the ultimate seat of control begins an epic adventure to discover her origins and save the dwindling population.”

High Couch of Silistra, 2015 Edition

The first thing we notice is the difference in image selection on the covers of the 1977 edition and the 2015 edition. I see the 1977 cover as an accurate reflection of female images from 1977 pop culture. This was when, for example, Jimmy Carter was inaugurated President, Elvis Pressly died, the original Star Wars, movie came out, the Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner) won an Emmy award,and a poster of Farrah Fawcett in a revealing red one-piece bathing suit sold 5 million copies. Zeitgeist pure…

The 2015 cover, on the other hand, is more indicative of humanity’s shared cultural heritage. It is allusive to the Roman and Greek culture of antiquity, which is appropriate for the globalized world we live in today. The unifying characteristic in both cultures, therefore, is its ability to appeal to a wide and diverse audience of readers despite its apparent boundaries confining it to strictly adult reading material. Attracting over 4 million readers since its publication in 1977, it has transcended its borders and become a timeless classic. In other words, this is a must read.

What makes a classic? Theme, style, and impact are three answers I would give. The possibility of the extinction of the human race has always been a theme that concerns each generation of humanity. That would be the ultimate irony of our civilized world if future circumstancs were to result in the extinction of the human species. Therefore, a book which helps us to imagine just such a scenario is always going to draw the attention of a wide readership. It was true in 1977, and I am convinced it is still true in 2016.

Style: Janet Morris in all her books writes in a direct, engaging, and entertaining style. She draws the reader into the book, captures your attention, and then leaves you with no other option but to keep turning the pages. This book is no exception. From page one to page last, any book by master storyteller Janet Morrison is a delight.

Impact is just as important as theme and style. If a book is not able to make you have an emotional reaction to it, or identify with the characters, their trials and tribulations, their ups and downs as they search to overcome the cause of conflict in their lives, then you simply lay the book aside. And you forget it. A book must impact its readers if it wishes to be memorable, if it seeks a place on the bookshelf as a classic. Janet Morris’ High Couch of Silistra Series has long ago earned its place in this pantheon of timeless classics for adults.

To conclude, let me say that if you like adult reading material that is pleasurable on a number of emotional, intellectual and sensual levels, and superbly crafted, and with a timeless story, that will keep you turning the pages, then I highly recommend this book. 5 stars.

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2 comments on “Professor Baker reviews High Couch of Silistra

  1. eranamage says:

    Reblogged this on Library of Erana and commented:
    A great review for a great book.

    Liked by 1 person

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