JONES, Gwyneth (Ann)
(1952-)
   UK writer who became best known in the 1980s for three complex adult sf novels, though most of her books have been juveniles, beginning with Water in the Air (1977), a fantasy. From her fourth novel, Dear Hill (1980), she has written sf and fantasy exclusively. Ally Ally Aster (1981)and The Alder Tree (1982), both as by Ann Halam, exploit Norse and Gothic material. King Death's Garden (1986), as by Halam, is a darkly subtle, smoothly stark ghost story set in Brighton, where GJ lived. Set in post- HOLOCAUST Inland, which is governed on deep-ecology lines by women, theZanne series - The Daymaker (1987), Transformations (1988) and The Skybreaker (1990), all as by Halam - is bracingly sf. Young rebellious Zanne slowly learns to control her innate rapport with the forbidden high-tech artifacts of the old patriarchal world-destroying hegemony, and becomes, willy-nilly and by protracted stages, an active agent in the sane preservation of Inland. GJ's only 1980s juvenile under her own name, The Hidden Ones (1988), is a contemporary urban fantasy. In Dinosaur Junction(1992), as Halam, the young protagonist is confronted with dilemmas relating to TIME TRAVEL and meets a dinosaur.GJ's first novel for adults, DIVINE ENDURANCE (1984), remains her most widely admired. Like the Zannebooks, it is set in a post-holocaust land governed by a matriarchy, but neither setting nor premise are presented with the clarity appropriate in a juvenile text. No dates are given, but GJ's enormously complex Southeast Asia venue has a dying-Earth (FAR FUTURE) feel; and the matriarchicalsociety she depicts is riven by profound ambivalences. The protagonist, a female android named Chosen Among the Beautiful, and the eponymous cat which accompanies her, dangerously agitate the scene by arriving in it, and a civil conflict begins to devastate the long polity of the land. The hard melancholy and sustained density of the book are unique in recent sf. Technically a sequel, Flowerdust (1993) - the title refers to a drug -expands a background episode from the first book.Escape Plans (1986) attempts some of the same density of effect through an acronym-heavy style and a bruising presentation of the COMPUTER-run DYSTOPIAN world in which the action takes place, but the sacrificial descent from other-world luxury of the female protagonist and her implication in an inevitable revolt have little of the resonance of her predecessor's structurally identical gift of self. Kairos (1988), along with the first two books -Flowerdust is a sidebar title, and should not be considered part of thepattern being described - makes up a kind of thematic trilogy featuring profoundly divided women who descend into the world and redeem it - is set in a NEAR FUTURE UK degenerating into fascism or anarchy. The title of the book is a theological term designating the moment of fullness in time when Christ appears, and clearly glosses the dramatic centre of each volume ofthe implied trilogy. In this case the female protagonist descends into the disintegrating UK's netherworld through ingesting a drug, Kairos, which literally recasts reality around her. The world she creates is cleansed of the grosser forms of evil. WHITE QUEEN (1991) moves beyond the pattern of the previous books, confronting its protagonists (and the planet) with an INVASION of ALIENS who themselves rewrite human perceptions of, andtherefore the rules that bind, reality. In 1992 the book shared the first James Tiptree, Jr. Award with Eleanor ARNASON's A WOMAN OF THE IRON PEOPLE(1991). A sequel, North Wind (1994), reworks the basic thematic material some decades further into the ambivalent engagement of human and alien.In her adult novels GJ is a writer of nearly unforgiving intensity, and on occasion an incompetent story-teller; her very occasional short fiction, assembled as Identifying the Object (coll 1993 chap US), confirms a sense that she is most comfortable at lengths which give her room to think hard, and perhaps recklessly. But the rewards for understanding her are so considerable that the task of learning how to do so seems light enough.
   JC
   Other works: The Influence of Ironwood (1978) and The Exchange (1979), associational juveniles.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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