The Clan of the Woodlands: The Bastard*
Future World Where Procreation is Tightly Controlled
One hundred years in the future, the world is divided into the orderly districts and the seemingly outcast clans. The social structure of the book is complex. Reproduction is tightly controlled in the districts. People are given special water from a young age to tamp down desire and fertility. Procreation only takes place between pre-screened applicants and by artificial insemination only. We meet Ayanna just as she’s finding out that she has been turned down to become a mother through no fault of her own but because actions of her mother may imply genetic inferiority. Thinking that she can get a sperm sample that some clansmen send to the districts and impregnate herself—a highly illegal act—she volunteers to take a teaching job with one of the clans.
What surprises lie in store for Ayanna. She has grown up with stories and rumors about the wild clansman. While she finds their hygiene and rough looks to be what she expected, they are certainly not all that they appear.
Will Ayanna succeed in artificially inseminating herself? What will she learn about this group that she’s only heard about? What other secrets will she find out? When confronted by a society so different from her own, what will she learn about herself and her world?
The book had a few problems with grammar, punctuation, and spelling (like anybodies instead of anybody’s and the mention of a car’s break, not brake).
The author has built a rich and complex world in this novel, and I get the feeling that we’re only being given just a small fraction of the backstory about what’s going on between the districts and the clans as well as the social worldview of each. I found Ayana’s impressions when she first came to the clan fascinating. The people in the districts have not been told the truth about the clans, and seeing her prejudice and assumptions makes you think about how we do that about things we’ve only heard about but not seen or experienced ourselves. The men of the clan are, for the most part, extremely protective of the women who come there, and Ariana finds this surprising. In the district, man and women are free to interact since there will be no desire between them in any case, so the precautions needed in the clan society seemed restrictive to her.
River is an interesting hero. He has his own ghosts and fears. When he is appointed Ayanna’s guardian, he doesn’t want the position. He has no clue how to interact with a female since they are so protected in the clan and only interact with their husbands, and he certainly isn’t comfortable having one live in his house.
The book is told in altering perspectives between River and Ayanna. While I am not a fan of profanity in general, I appreciate that the author used it in this book in the context of differentiating between River’s and Ayanna’s viewpoints. The author succeeded in making their viewpoints are very distinct. River is rough and uncultured while Ayanna is cultured, a trifle pompous at first, and aloof.
The author left questions open about some of the other characters in the book at the end, so I am looking forward to reading about further adventures in this complex and fascinating world.