SF Masterwork of the Week: Grass

GRASS by Sheri S. Tepper
SF Gateway eBook | SF Masterworks paperback

What could be more commonplace than grass, or a world covered over all its surface with a wind-whipped ocean of grass?

But the planet Grass conceals horrifying secrets within its endless pastures. And as an incurable plague attacks all inhabited planets but this one, the prairie-like Grass begins to reveal these secrets – and nothing will ever be the same again . . .


The wonderful Sheri S. Tepper is March’s Author of the Month. Having previously featured The Gate to Women’s Country and been treated to yesterday’s quite remarkable autobiographical note, we thought we’d round out Ms Tepper’s Author of the Month tenure by featuring the Hugo-nominated Grass as SF Masterwork of the Week, and linking to two very perceptive reviews on Ian Sales‘ excellent SF Mistressworks site.

Cara Murphy‘s review looks at Grass‘s protagonist, Marjorie Westriding, through the prism of her religious upbringing:

Marjorie Westriding Yrarier is the central character. She arrives on Grass from a future Terra (Earth) dominated by Sanctity, an oppressive world religion. Her family relationships, her religion, ‘Old Catholicism’ and her faith in the very existence of God are constant themes in her life. Throughout the book, revelations about Grass, its culture and the nature of the native inhabitants, serve to undermine and challenge her entire belief system.

Michaela Staton‘s review emphasises the sociological aspect of the novel:

It is also a story about classism. The bons look down on pretty much everyone else. They tolerate the ‘commoners’ more than they do Marjory and her family because the Yrariers are intruders, or ‘fragras’ as they are called. However, the bons’ power is superficial. The commoners have a thriving community and do very well in trade with the rest of human civilization. They are not as ignorant of technology and medicine as the bons are. Though the bons see them only as servants, the commoners are in fact far freer to seek their own happiness than their masters.

Both, of course, cover much more than just the elements picked out above, but if we detailed every nuance of each review you’d have no reason to go and read them – and you should. They’re both insightful looks at a fine novel as well as a pertinent reminder that each of us reads a slightly book, and by taking on board the interpretations of other readers we can enrich our own experience of a narrative. And in the case of Sheri S. Tepper’s Grass there’s clearly a wealth of material to interpret.


SF Gateway wishes to extend thanks and appreciation to Cara Murphy, Michaela Staton and Ian Sales for allowing us to republish the extracts above. Read the full reviews – and more – at SF Mistressworks.