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Resurrection Days

Resurrection Days by Wilson TuckerResurrection Days
Timescape Books, 1981
Price I paid: $1.25

Journeyman carpenter, Owen Hall—killed in 1943 during an unfortunate accident at a railroad crossing—finds himself resurrected thousands of years later in a world dominated by women. The men are all automatons, without free will or conscience.

In just 24 hours, Owen wreaks havok on this disciplined female civilization, turning it topsy-turvy by refusing to obey orders. But as his madcap adventures threaten to destroy their ordered world, the women realize that Owen’s independence must be corrected…

Suddenly Owen must use all this cunning and guile against a horde of determined female warriors if he is to stay alive…with a mind of his own!

Well, this book was disappointing. I try so hard to find something that’ll compare with The Feminists. It turns out that the idea of “A world controlled by women” is a pretty common one, but nothing I’ve found is quite as offensive as that one was. I suppose that might be a good thing, but I get the feeling that it’s because I’m reading the wrong books.

It turns out that Wilson Tucker isn’t quite as obscure as I thought he’d be, either. He didn’t write very many books, and Resurrection Days looks to be his last one. But that doesn’t mean he’s an unknown. Apart from lots of short stories, Tucker was very active on the fan circuit back in the day. He even gave his name to a widely-used word: Tuckerization.

Tucker had a habit of naming minor characters after real people that he knew. They might be fellow fans or authors. This practice seems to have met with mixed results among the critics, but it endeared him to his fans (or so I’ve gathered). The result is that whenever a name was mentioned in this novel, I had to wonder if that name was taken from a real person.

What’s great, though, is that my copy of the book is autographed. I love that. It fills me with joy to find a book at my used-book store that someone else felt the need to get autographed. I’ve got two others like that, both by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, who I also understand was also active amongst the fandom, so that makes sense.

This book was autographed to “Chloie” in 1990. Chloie, if you’re still out there, I just want to say thanks!

So the book was not nearly as offensive as I thought it’d be. In fact, it’s one of the more inoffensive books I’ve read thus far. I’d not sure I’d go so far as to say it was good, but it was all right. Could have been worse. It had decent characterization, and that’s the most I could say for it, but since so many books I read have awful characters, that’s a fairly major point.

Our hero, Owen, was enjoyable to read about. He did have some flaws, but you could put those down to his background. He’s from the 40s, which at the time of the book’s writing was about forty years in the past. Tucker never uses the text to pass any judgment on Owen, for better or worse, but just presents him to us as is.

He’s a fun character, though. He might have some outdated ideas about women, but they were never harsh or misogynistic. He’s one of those guys who considers himself a “service” to women, which is pretty icky, yeah, but at least he views women as people and not objects.

Owen starts off the story after being shoved out of a house. He has no idea what’s going on. All he knows is that he’s being yelled at by the fat woman who just shoved him out, and it appears that she’s drunk on some cheap hooch. Owen’s affection for alcohol is one of his more frequently mentioned attributes.

After some unintelligible yelling back and forth, Owen goes out into the world. The first thing he sees makes him realize that he’s not at home anymore. He sees a giant treadmill stretching across the landscape. A moving road, miles long, and there are some people riding it.

Owen mentions reading something about these things in one of the “scientific wonder” magazines, specifically Amazing Mechanics. He never mentions the author, but he does say “the roads must roll” at some point so yeah, the book kicks off with a Heinlein reference. I did a little digging around and it turns out that Heinlein wrote that story in 1940, so it’s completely accurate that Owen would have been able to read it. So there you go.

Owen explores the world a bit and sees some things that don’t go over very well. For one, all the other men are “zombies.”

Gods I hate zombies.

Well, these zombies are zombies in name only. They’re lacking in free will and have to do whatever the women tell them to do. They work all day and sleep on a cot in the back of a woman’s house at night. I don’t think they have to eat or drink.

The zombie seems to be assigned to the woman that resurrected it. That wasn’t really covered. A lot of things weren’t really covered in this book, which gave me mixed feelings.

We never learn how this world came about. We never learn how it works. We never learn if there are people outside of this town. There are high technologies but they’re never explained. Even the Heinlein road doesn’t get any kind of explanation, it just sort of exists. Owen never learns anything, and the women don’t seem to care.

What little we do know comes from Owen’s wanderings, and we see everything from his eyes. He does talk to a few women, but they’re more interested in the fact that he’s an aberration than in answering his questions. He’s not supposed to be able to talk.

One thing he learns about is how things are made in this society. He goes to a factory when he follows a bunch of the zombie men and gets put to work. “Work” in this context means putting his head against a scanner thing and thinking hard, really hard, about bacon. And then poof, there is bacon.

It turns out that he’s able to think about anything and it appears. He makes some booze and cigars for himself, and then just for kicks makes a bunch of carpenter’s tools, just as a test. It seems that the better he is able to visualize something, the better it turns out. His zombie coworkers (and who doesn’t have at least one?) can’t compare to the stuff he’s making, although one of them is able to make some really good bread.

This mental fabrication seems to have something to do with his resurrection. Once he gets into some women’s houses, starting with one named Paoli, he sees a similar device to the one at the factory. He also learns that male corpses are being dug up from a nearby graveyard, where they are distributed amongst the women who refabricate them somehow. It’s never explained just what happens when a corpse is turned into a living, breathing person. On one hand this bothered me. I was curious and wanted to know. On the other hand, it makes some narrative sense.

See, while Owen doesn’t know anything, it’s logical that the women in the story would just take it all for granted. It’s what they live with. It’s just the way things are. Owen comes along and kicks over the applecart, but that doesn’t mean they have to explain anything to him. He’s more or less a terrorist. While one or two women take him in for a while, asking them to explain how this world works would be like asking a random person on the street how, say, a light bulb works. There might be some vague idea about electricity, but ask them what a light bulb filament is made of and you’ll probably be met with silence. This would probably hold true for a lot of things. Just think of how many people you’ve heard try to explain how the government works (the president sets gas prices?) or any one of a billion things we all take for granted.

This isn’t a book about a world full of women, it’s a book about a world full of people who happen to be women.

Almost nothing about this world has anything to do with the fact that everyone is a woman. That’s the big unexplained thing in the narrative. We learn that new citizens are born via parthenogenesis, but never what happened to all the men or anything. We get maybe one or two tantalizing clues, but that’s it.

Owen meets a woman named Kehli and falls in love with her. Kehli digs up corpses for resurrection. This is taken in stride. Owen shares a few nights with her and shows her how to use her resurrection machine to make other things, before he has to go on the run because word is getting out that he’s causing some trouble.

Among other things, he sent a bunch of carpenter’s tools down the food chute at the factory and got it temporarily shut down. He also boozed up the woman named Paoli and they had some funtimes, but later she regretted it. There are other things. He’s a wanted man.

After some running around and commenting on shoddy carpentry he finally gets captured and taken to court. He testifies that he was resurrected wrong and that none of this was his fault. He points to the woman that shoved him out of the house at the beginning of the book, whose name is apparently Hoon. He says that she figured out how to make booze out of the resurrection machine and got good and plastered before resurrecting him, so she botched the job. He also speculates that she resurrected him for selfish purposes. She shows remorse, but everyone still decides that he will be “fixed.”

In desperation, he tries to appeal his case. Nobody knows what that means. He says he wants to go to a higher court. There is no higher court. So he says he wants to talk to the Mother.

I think Kehli told him about the Mother. She runs the place.

Apparently even mentioning the Mother is blasphemy, especially for a man. So now instead of being fixed Owen is to be executed, and Kehli is going to do it.

Specifically he’s going to be killed with a garotte and then put back in the graveyard where they found him with a special sign that says NEVER RESURRECT THIS GUY HE IS A DICK.

He convinces Kehli to run away with him, and she does. That’s the end of the book.

Okay, yeah, umm, what happened? So Owen ran around a lot and saw this weird world, but I feel vaguely dissatisfied by it. The whole narrative left more questions open than it answered, partly because I’m pretty sure it didn’t answer a single question.

The closest thing we ever got to any kind of history in this world is from some coins that Owen found at Paoli’s house. Some of them were from his own time, but a few were from farther up the timeline. He sees a fifty cent piece from the 80s and is upset by it because “that idiot” is on money. Is he talking about John F. Kennedy? Am I missing something? Why would Owen have known about Kennedy? The best I can come up with is PT-109, but that happened in 1943, the year Owen “died,” so I just don’t know. That’s weird.

But anyway, a few of the coins were from even further into the future, something like the 2090s, and they’re stamped “NorAmerFed.”

We don’t actually get any kind of idea how far into the future Owen has been flung, either. He guesses a few hundred years at first, and then thinks maybe it’s more than a thousand. He notices that Polaris is no longer the North Star. I think that would mean it’s been on the order of tens of thousands of years since Owen’s time. But we never learn for sure. It could be a lot of things.

I know I said that I see the narrative logic of this kind of ambiguity, but I don’t have to like it. I feel a bit let down by this book. I wanted some answers. On the other hand, I was spared a book that was just answers. You know, the kind where the hero gets expositioned every other page until the end when he revolts or something. A more standard plot.

But this book didn’t give us much of anything. Owen ran around, was folksy and charming for a bit, and then he met this girl and they ran off.

This book didn’t need anything that happened! It didn’t need to be a world where women ran things and men were zombies. That didn’t matter. The roads that rolled didn’t matter. The factory where thinking makes it so didn’t matter. NorAmerFed didn’t matter. The Mother didn’t matter. Without at least a few answers to justify the setting and plot of this book, none of it made any difference. It was just there. A hollow shell of a setting that had a plot where a guy was running around making booze with his mind. That could have happened anywhere. I’m pretty sure I’ve dreamed that.

But it wasn’t overtly sexist, so there’s that.

Sigh.


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