In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet’s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin.
Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule—galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one—not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself—can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations.
A riveting tale of destruction and love found in direst of places—even at the extreme end of post-human experience—Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan raises questions about what it means to be human, the fluidity of sex and gender, and the role of art as means for survival.
The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
Publication Date: April 18, 2017 by Harper
I loved the idea of this novel much more than the execution. The Book of Joan is at times chilling and unique in its portrayal of a post-apocalyptic earth, but I found the story became too convoluted as it progressed. I know a major part of the novel was meant to be commentary on the importance of the arts in maintaining true humanity and in our current political nightmare, this was a rather fitting aspect of a frightening future. Unfortunately, Yuknavitch’s hints of Shakespearean dramatic comedy just felt out of sync with the overall novel. Trinculo (yes – the jester) was uncomfortably comical and the final chapters of the book were a bit baffling to me.
I had such high hopes for this book so I’m upset that it didn’t live up to my expectations. For those looking for novels with a similar theme, but with a clearer plot I would recommend seeking out Margaret Atwood’s MaddAdam trilogy instead.