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Publisher's Summary

The best-selling author of The Small Backs of Children offers a vision of our near extinction and a heroine - a reimagined Joan of Arc - poised to save a world ravaged by war, violence, and greed and forever change history in this provocative new novel.

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 on 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 quasicorporate 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 the direst of places - even at the extreme end of posthuman 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 a means for survival.

©2017 Lidia Yuknavitch (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A beautifully woven, completely original dystopia!

unlike anyother post-apocalyptic experience, dimensional, multifaceted characters, mercurial twists, and a celebration of earth's energy!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Pushing boundaries of post-apocalyptic fiction

It's always exciting to find a book, particularly in a favorite genre, that pushes the barriers to an extreme. This is especially true when the book fits within a trope one normally avoids. I try to avoid post-apocalyptic sci-fi. It's worn, generally an easy reach for poor writers, and devolves too often into zombies. There are exceptions, of course, when a truly great writer takes on the subject, such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road, or in true classics like Earth Abides, one of the first books to cover the subject by George R. Stewart. But now, when one of the many booklists I receive mentions a book is "post-apocalyptic", I scroll on by.

This is a book I took on twice in two days to absorb. I'll admit it's not a book for everybody. If, however, you're as keen on sci-fi as I am I believe you'll be running across this title in booklists for decades to come.

I should say first that this is a highly sexualized book. If that's the kind of thing that makes you uncomfortable then move on, please. I'm not talking romance. In fact the human race has become physically desexualized through a catastrophe. Love exists, as do some hormonal cravings, but humans are no longer able to reproduce and even imitative attempts at sexuality have been forbidden on CIEL, the suborbital station hovering over earth where one of the principal narrators, Christine, lives. Bodies are bleached white, hairless, stripped of sexual organs. Christine spends time modifying her own body and the bodies of others with painful cauterizing lasers and other tools. At age 49 Christine only has a year to live, as those living on the station are killed and recycled at age 50.

This upper world is ruled by a sadistic emperor named Jean de Men, a former media personality and billionaire who became the leader on earth and later migrated the existing population to CIEL.

The remaining humans on earth have undergone the same physical transformations, with the exception of Joan of Dirt. As a young girl she underwent a different type of transformation which allows her to reach into the soil and create earthquakes and fissures. Otherwise she is the last remaining person on earth to have retained her sexuality, her skin color, and her hair. She is a soldier in the revolts against Jean de Men. When she's captured she goes through a trial similar to the faux trials given to her namesake Joan of Arc by her English captors. And like that Joan, Jean de Men arranges for her to be burned at the stake. She is saved through a sleight of hand arranged by the woman she loves.

The remainder of the book is an increase in tension as the narrative passes between Joan and Chris which will end in the destruction of one of the three main entities in the book, Joan, Chris, or Jean.

It's a perception of a world that's both horrifying and mesmerizing with dozens of subtle themes on sex, love, power, and pain. As mentioned, it's not a book that will be to the taste of everyone but it certainly sits comfortably in the company of books by other transformative sci-fi writers of the past 50 years like Delaney, Butler, and LeGuin.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Paul
  • Providence, RI, USA
  • 05-30-17

As riveting as it is horrifying

Once I got started on this I couldn't stop. I cared about the characters and so just had to follow them as they struggled to navigate a world of increasingly surrealistic horror. Not for the faint hearted!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Garry
  • Honolulu, HI, United States
  • 05-25-17

Why I listen more than read

I used to read a book a week. Now I listen to at least two a week. The Book of Joan is a big reason why. It is very well written. The story line is well crafted and the performance is exquisite. It is as though Yuknavitch and Sands are of the same mind. Any performance I would of been able to do in my own mind would of pailed in comparison.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Profound, prescient, powerful reimagining of Joan

If you could sum up The Book of Joan in three words, what would they be?

An Immersive, inventive adventure in a future distopian society, rich in finely drawn characters and deeply engaging relationships

What other book might you compare The Book of Joan to and why?

I'd compare it with THE SMALL BACKS OF CHILDREN, also by Lidia Yuknavitch, because it again portrays in intimate, heartaching detail the cost war exacts of society's children.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

You must

No words
You must listen to it. You must think. One of the most powerful books I've read in years

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Bad Audiobook

Read the first five chapters on hard copy. Was lukewarm at that point. This is borderline unlistenable. Worst audiobook narration I've ever heard.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • K
  • 06-16-18

Pretty transphobic.

Trigger warning: yet another book masquerading as feminist with really horrific descriptions of a trans masculine character who is described as essentially the most horrible and depraved person in the world. Not recommended.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Extremely disapointing

I had high hopes for this book, those were dashed within the first four chapters. I couldn't manage to get any farther than that.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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Excrement adorned by the promise of the numinous.

What would have made The Book of Joan better?

We all know that many people who write books probably should not. LY uses her 'misfit' status for catharsis and presumes to include in her clan others of us who possess a particular individuality. Xe Sand's masterful rendering was sufficient to buttress me as I listened to the end, looking for some redemptive offering, but the momentum of LY's boundless onanism carried her story to its (her) absurd ending.

Has The Book of Joan turned you off from other books in this genre?

No. Not at all.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful