Sue Lange's Tritcheon Hash combines the wit and humor of classic science fiction satire (Red Dwarf, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, etc.) with the serious feminist sensibilities of, say, Margaret Atwood's incredible The Handmaid's Tale. The premise is not a particularly new one -- men and women living in separate societies with extremely
limited contact -- but Lange's treatment of it is fresh, often funny, and always thoughtful.
The year: 3011. The place: the all-female planet of Coney Island (named after the amusement park-turned woman's penal colony-turned amusement park once more back on Earth). The hero: the brash, brassy, fearless Tritcheon Hash, a singularly restless test pilot with a jones for speed
-- as in pulling
the greatest number of g's possible as often as possible. Since the early 23rd century, human women have lived exclusively on their
own peaceable but sometimes paranoid planet, leaving a rapidly deteriorating Earth to the violent wiles of the male half of the species.
But recent intimations of reunification have the female leaders wanting real evidence that men have changed. Tritch is only too eager to answer the mysterious summons of her former mentor; she's been spending more time sitting on her butt waiting for the ships she tests to actually fly than she's been enjoying the rush of space flight. Moreover, her wife has been acting distant and apathetic, devoting her full attention to their two daughters. Tritch could use a break. And what a break.
When she learns her assignment -- to journey alone to Earth and spy on its potentially brutish, potentially filthy inhabitants, assuming, of course, that she can find a way through the orbiting layer of garbage enshrouding the old home planet
-- she's ready to leave right now.
Even though it's an older ship she's given for the mission, one whose computer memory is filled almost entirely with safety precautions from the user manuals for everything on board, leaving little room for virtual personality, Tritch is excited. Not just about the opportunity for espionage, mind you, but also about the off-off chance she might somehow get to see again the intriguing person -- the intriguing, forbidden man -- she met
during an experimental exercise back in military school.
A hairy crash-landing leaves the would-be spy unconscious long enough to be captured by the one man she really hopes not to see, and threatens to trigger a galactic incident. Now if only the intrepid Tritcheon Hash can decide between the smart, serious, extremely handsome man she's never forgotten and her loyalties to her wife, her children, and her half of the species, the fate of humankind might not be teetering so dangerously on its balancing point.
Lange paints Tritch with a sometimes broad brush, but this is such a likable, human, warts-and-all character that it's impossible for the reader
not to root for her, even when she's on the verge of making a bad choice. Tritch's arch-enemy is a swaggering, aggressive man who's had it in for her since they were partnered in that long-ago military exercise, and he is perhaps the most caricatured of all the lead characters. But the other main man in the story is well-drawn and multifaceted, softening somewhat the feminist roundhouses delivered throughout the novel. Feminist readers and satirical sci-fi fans will especially appreciate Tritcheon Hash. Readers who fall into both categories will have to read this.