Gibbon's Decline and Fall
Sheri S. Tepper

Cover Sheri was very close to five stars with this book. It was only let down by a few elements that were overly contrived and unrealistic, yet were essential to make the main point of the story. Unfortunately I canít go into detail about these without giving away a lot of the plot. This is something I strive to avoid in my reviews. So I will confine myself to saying that these contrived aspects of the story donít detract in any meaningful way from the excellence of this book.

So what is ĎGibbonís Decline and Fallí about? Yes thatís right itís millennium fever time. Itís the year 2000 and life as we know it is on itís last legs. This doesnít sound like a ringing endorsement does it? This is what happens when you some up an enormously complex novel in one sentence.

The book open with a prologue in 1959 with Carolyn, the main character, just enrolling at University. In the next few pages Sheri manages to set up the rest of the main characters, but without seeming to dump vast quantities of information on you. It is a skill many authors could learn from.

The title has a double role in this book. It captures the central theme, ie the decline and fall of modern society. It is also the basis of the friendship the main characters form. The start the ĎDecline and Fall Clubí to help one of their friends. This Club then becomes a central part of their lives. They vow to met every year from its inception. This vow is upheld as we jump from the prologue into the main story in the year 2000 where Carolyn is organising the next meeting at her place.

Diverse things are happening around the world leading to much unpleasantness. The book gets steadily more and more horrific until somewhere near the middle when Sheri starts to explain why things are going like they are. This released a lot of the tension for me. Once I knew why things where happening, I could envisage solutions.

It is at this point that Sheri begins to bring the members of the DFC (Decline and Fall Club) back together. All of their skills and experience over the last 40 years hilighting different aspects of the problem. This is one of the contrived elements I mentioned. The DFC is a small group of people, yet they represent every aspect of the human condition, whether it be social status, sexuality, spirituality. I was unconvinced of the likelihood of such diverse range of people occurring in such a small group, but it works for this story. It is necessary to make the point, I feel, Sheri is aiming for.

I canít go into much more detail about the plot now without giving away the story, but I will make an obscure reference to the end. It wonít spoil the story as you probably wonít know what Iím raving about unless youíve read the book.

My initial reaction on reaching the end of the book was, "You bitch. You didnít tell me." That thought was followed a heartbeat later by, "Thank god you didnít tell me. It would have ruined the book." Almost everything is resolved in the conclusion. Ordinarily a major loose end, like the on Sheri leaves unanswered, would annoy me, but the nature of this book and the nature of what is left unresolved, couldnít have been finished any other way. Any answer that Sheri could give to the final question would be loved by a large number of people and hated by twice as many. Sheri clearly wants people to think about the question rather then be indoctrinated with her views. For this reason only I would highly recommend this book. It asks some very important questions without preaching an answer.

While the book is set in the year 2000. I donít feel it will become dated after 2000. It is a book with a vision as profound as Ď1984í and I sincerely hope Sheri is wrong. This is a damn good book. Read it now or after the year 2000, but read it.