2021 Reading Challenge – Week 7

We’re 2 months into 2021, and a day past 7 weeks! Hoo-rah! Unlike the last 2 weeks, I managed to finish a book during the 7th week, making it my 10th book of 2021. Lately, I’ve been a little lazy about reading. See, I bought myself a little gift for Valentine’s Day and have spent more time on that than I have reading or writing. What gift?

A tenor ukulele!

So instead of reading, I’ve been trying to learn Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel, Never Going Back Again by Fleetwood Mac, and Greensleeves, the traditional English folk song. But you didn’t come here to hear all of that!

10th Book of 2021

Yesterday, on the last day of the 7th week, I finished reading a book called Ta, by John Robert Russell. I found this book entirely by accident while browsing the sci-fi section of the local bookstore with a friend. One of my favorite ways to look for books is, admittedly, by looking for interesting cover art. And this book definitely has an interesting cover.

Soon rival forces lock in otherworldly violence. There is Kengee, the powerful warrior whose mind is inhabited by an earthling. And Tanee, the mind-traveler who thirsts for sexual exploitation. And there is Zabo, an organization run by women that will destroy any who oppose its omnipotence.

–snippet from the back cover of John Robert Russell’s Ta

I know, I know, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” But hear me out. This book cover has a plant with boobs! Ha! What the heck is that all about? Just a couple bucks for this 200-some-odd-page novel was a great deal, and I had to know what was going on underneath the book’s comical cover!

This book was a little awkward to read at work, just because the cover isn’t exactly professional, but its such a small book that the more inappropriate parts of the cover can easily be covered by a palm while holding the book.

Ta by John Robert Russell

The story takes place on planet Ta, far from Earth, although the planet is inhabited by humans. The Northerners of Ta are basically eugenicists, controlling who reproduces and exiling those who don’t fit their governmental standards of appearance. These Northerners live in a highly striated society, with clear social separation between traders, merchants, and farmers. Men and women, too, have strict modes of behavior depending on their social status.

The Northerners have, throughout their history, pushed the Southerners to the swampiest, most unpleasant regions of the planet. There, the Southerners, referred to as “barbarians” by the North, live in harmony with nature. Their society isn’t as elitist as the North, and the Southerners are born in all shapes and sizes without worrying about achieving “human perfection”. They milk a plant that grows only in the South, the Takusa plant, and trade the milk with the North. However, the plant has stopped producing milk! The North thinks that the South is just refusing to cooperate in an effort to push the value of their only export higher. Will war break out between the 2 regions of the planet Ta?

Themes of the Book

Ta is a humorous, sexed up book from the mid 1970’s. Some of the most powerful, most dangerous characters in the book are women. Does the book talk about their breasts a lot? Yeah. Which is usually a pet peeve on mine, when an author can’t write about women without mentioning their boobs. But even the plants on the planet have breasts, and the women were still written as highly skilled and capable, so it was easy to look past this part of the book.

The women on Ta face harsher criticisms based on their appearance than the men do (go figure), so they make the best of their situation by using their looks to exploit the men’s lust.

Oh, and did I mention there was an asexual character? This character was a pleasant and unexpected surprise!

The men of the book are mostly all brutish, horny drunks who frequent brothels “pillow houses” in their free time. There was definitely more thought and consideration into writing deep women characters, while the male characters seem to lack that depth.

Does the book use a lot of gendered stereotypes? Yeah. It’s a book from 1975, after all. The main character is a New Yorker who’s mind has been transplanted into a new body on planet Ta, and he objectifies nearly every woman he meets. A lot of the women try to seduce him, too!

But it’s the women who really push the plot along. The main character gets saved by women and is generally only capable of handling situations on his own if it’s something that he can flirt his way out of. Oh, and there’s only one “damsel in distress scene,” which doesn’t go quite as you’d expect.

Overall Thoughts

This book was weird, cheesy, violent, and all-around fun to read! Check out a review of it here. Get a copy of the book here, or go search your local book store for a copy!

Update: I forgot to mention, but I also read The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain last week! It was very good! 🐸

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