Some authors like to do new looks at classic fairy tales, some look for new perspectives on Shakespearean tales, and some authors use actual history as source material for fiction. In the last category we find the new science fiction book, The Book of Joan, by Lidia Yuknavitch, which takes the real story of Joan of Arc and transposes it into a post-apocalyptic world.
Admit it, just reading that description intrigued you, right? What a fascinating idea!
As with many good dystopian novels, this one has as its prelude a series of devastating wars that have changed the earth completely. In The Book of Joan, the very surface of the earth has become a radioactive battlefield. The human beings who remain alive are living on a strange platform called CIEL, where they have evolved into sexless, pale white, hairless creatures who inscribe stories on their skin.
A charismatic war leader, Jean de Men, rises above the other bloodthirsty cult leaders to take over CIEL and turn it into a sort of corporate police state. Along comes a child warrior, Joan, who seems to possess or to be possessed by a strange force that communicates directly with the earth (not unlike the voices of angels and saints the historical Joan of Arc heard), and she galvanizes the group of people rebelling against Jean’s rule. As so often happens when people stand up against a police state, Joan is martyred by Jean and his armies, but also as so often happens, the result of this act is not what the tyrant expected, and Joan’s legacy is more than anyone, her colleagues, her enemies or even Joan herself, could have possibly imagined (similar to the repercussions of the martyrdom of the historical Joan of Arc).
Post apocalyptic dystopia, issues of gender and sex, love and destruction and questions about what it means to be human: if these are issues that intrigue you, then you owe it to yourself to come down to the Field Library and take out The Book of Joan.