The premise of this book is strange, even for a feminist like me. It's the future. There has been a social revolution that has resulted in the taking over of society by women. A young woman is hired to update women's sexual fantasies by a "ministry" dedicated to mental revolution. Romance is dead. So is masochism. That's not a terrible thing, just the strange story behind Cheryl Benard's TURNING ON THE GIRLS.
The world that the women run does not sit well with the men of the universe, and they turn to an underground movement, Harmony, to plan the overturning of this new society. Zone Six is where the worst of them lie and that is where Lisa is sent to infiltrate their movement. (Benard, the director of an Austrian research institute, should probably stick to science.)
With the tiniest compunction for humor, Benard tries to make this a comic version of something much more substantial, like Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMA ID'S TALE. But the irony of a very realistic combination of the world we know with a future world in that book was a much more successful sci-fi look at what could happen. Perhaps I'm too much of a pessimist to enjoy this book for its own merits --- and I don't always think that romance is the worst way for a woman to conduct a fantasy life for herself. TURNING ON THE GIRLS is a long, strange trip that many readers will want to leave early.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on February 1, 2001
Turning on the Girls