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Biting the Sun [School & Library Binding]

Tanith Lee
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 1999 0613212266 978-0613212267
In a world dedicated to pleasure, one young rebel sets out on a forbidden quest--.

Published for the first time in a single volume, Tanith Lee's duet of novels set in a hedonistic Utopia are as riveting and revolutionary as they were when they first appeared two decades ago.

It's a perfect existence, a world in which no pleasure is off-limits, no risk is too dangerous, and no responsibilities can cramp your style. Not if you're Jang: a caste of libertine teenagers in the city of Four BEE. But when you're expected to make trouble--when you can kill yourself on a whim and return in another body, when you're encouraged to change genders at will and experience whatever you desire--you've got no reason to rebel...until making love and raising hell, daring death and running wild just leave you cold and empty.

Ravenous for true adventures of the mind and body, desperate to find some meaning, one restless spirit finally bucks the system--and by shattering the rules, strikes at the very heart of a soulless society....
--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Tanith Lee, winner of the August Derleth Award and several World Fantasy Awards, is best known as a fantasy and horror writer, but she has written several fine SF novels, two of which, Don't Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine, form a duology now available in the single volume Biting the Sun.

The far future has brought freedom not only from material want but also from rules, responsibilities, and risk. You can change bodies and genders like clothes, make love with whomever you want, live forever, and kill yourself as often as you like. You can have everything, except a meaningful life. Then one day a restless soul discovers an act so shocking and terrifying that human society has forgotten its existence. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Of course, when I woke up in the Limbo Tub I'd changed my mind. Some quasi-robot medicine man was peering in at me.

"Look here, young woman--I see that is what you predominantly are--this has got to be stopped. This is the second time you've been back here in ten units."

"Mmm," I swam around a bit and smiled at him with my emotional response wires.

The Q-R went away, and someone came and asked me what I wanted to come out as, and by then, you see, I'd anti-Hergaled myself. How drumdik it would be if people actually thought I was Hergall! What with that, and that floopy bee swooning in my hair . . . I showed them the new me. As usual it was depressingly lithe and glamorous. Hatta, and lots of other people I know, nearly always makes a point of having a fat body once in a while, or spots or something. Anyhow, this me was willow-waisted, with an exotic bust and long, long scarlet hair. I got into it, and it felt so odd I had to go somewhere quiet and have an ecstasy pill, and forget about it for a while.

Hatta found me not long after.

"Ooma Hatta," I purred. Everyone always looks nice when you're in ecstasy, even Hatta, who was being fat and spotty just now, with three eyes.

"Attlevey, ooma. Groshing again, I see. Don't you ever get a mite ill with it?"

"No," I said.

"I'll take you for a meal. It must be coming up to some eating time or other, isn't it?"

"Well, I'm hungry. I drowned just after meal three, and this new body hadn't had a thing."

We went out, Hatta holding me up--I was extremely ecstatic--and rolled on to the float-bridge. My awful, beastly bee came rushing out after us. I just couldn't get rid of the thing. It fell on Hatta this time.

"Onk!" said Hatta, typically and nauseatingly mild about what happens to him. I threw the bee off the bridge, but it came back again. "Let's go to the Fire-Pit."

The Fire-Pit, they say, is absolutely the place to go if you're feeling low. I almost cheered up, but, in the end, just before we got there, my Neurotic Need asserted itself and I had to get off the bridge and go steal something. It was alive, this thing, with long white fur and big orange eyes. Its whiskers got tangled up in my hair, and I gave it to my bee to hold a second or so before I got hysterical.

"Here we are," Hatta said.

We jumped off the bridge, and fell about twenty feet until the electricity wave-net of the Fire-Pit neatly caught us. Hatta looked apologetic. In the Fire-Pit everything burns with scarlet fire. The tables float in flames, non-hot of course, and fireballs bounce gently in the plates. I matched.

"I forgot," Hatta said, "about your hair."

I'd calmed down now anyway, but he shoved another ecstasy pill into my mouth, just in case, and then had to carry me to a couch.

"What will you have, dear?" Hatta asked kindly.

I winced at his un-Jang vocabulary, hoping no one had overheard.

We had a large nut steak on fire, with all sorts of burning fruit stuck out of it on burning skewers. Hatta carved with the molecule needle knife and did it all wrong, but we got something to eat eventually. Ecstasy was wearing off by then.

"I hear," Hatta mumbled through steak, "that you've had Hergal officially cut out."

"Yes," I said.

Hatta went on eating for a while. Our bottle of fire-and-ice arrived and he sniffed it and tasted it and stared up at the fiery ceiling.

"Eight-first Rorl, I shouldn't wonder," Hatta said. I fingered a skewer, but Hatta only murmured: "Er, I really admit you're looking groshing."

"Thank you. I can't say the same for you, ooma."

"The thing is," Hatta said nervously, "I haven't had love for two units now, and I wondered if perhaps we could get married for the afternoon."

"Not with you looking like that we couldn't," I said. Well, I mean. Outraged pimples and a couple of tons descending on you with three yellow pupil-less eyes to watch the effect.

"Look," Hatta encouraged me, "can't you see that it's an Essential Experience to have love with a body you're not really attracted to?"

"Why?" No, I wasn't going to be bamboozled with Jang Essential Experience jargon, particularly from reactionary old Hatta.

"Well . . ." began Hatta.

We were interrupted. Kley and Danor had arrived with a pet animal that immediately started a fight with my white, stolen thing, and therefore with my bee. In the confusion they drew up floating fire couches and helped themselves to our nut steak. They were both male this time, with long iridescent hair, and Danor had those silly wings like Hergal's and kept knocking things off the table with them.

They vaguely greeted me and began chatting with Hatta.

I stood up, got my white furry animal under one arm, and drained my third goblet of fire-and-ice.

"I must flit, oomas," I said gaily.

"Oh, but--" Hatta began.

"Thank you for a wonderful fourth meal, Hatta," I gushed. "I'll see you next body."

I flitted.

Outside it was one of those depressing blue-crystal-golden-drops-of-sunlight afternoons. The weather is always perfect at Four BEE, but now and then the Jang manage to sabotage something, and we get a groshing, howling sandstorm come sweeping in past the barrier beams to cheer us all up. I'll never forget the time Danor and I, both female then, I might add, disabled the robot controller at Lookout 9A and let in a down-pour of volcanic ash from one of the big black mountains outside, floods of it for units and units--everything went zaradann. They had to deliver food by bird-plane, and the roads were full of robots trying to dig us all out. We even achieved an earthquake once. Nothing fell down, of course, though we all hoped the Robotics Museum would. Hergal and I were sitting in a big crystal tower at the time, unsuccessfully having love telepathically, and it shook like jelly, which was more than we were doing.

I went to a call-post and had my new body flashed out, so my friends (?) would recognize me. I put a scanner on the Zeefahr and waited for ages to see if Hergal would hurtle out of the sky on to it, but he didn't. So I signaled Thinta.

"Attlevey," I said when her three-dimensional female image appeared in front of me. She looked nice, pleasantly plump, with big green eyes and sort of furry hair. She hadn't changed for ages. Stability at last.

"Oh attlevey, ooma, I was just making a water dress."

She held it up, greenly opalescent and gently dripping.

"Thinta," I said, "I've just been drowned and come back like this, and I'm absolutely droad."

"Oh, I didn't know it was you," Thinta said. She obviously hadn't seen the flash yet. "Well, ooma, why don't you go to one of the Dream Rooms? Wait a split and I'll be with you." She vanished.

Thinta liked the Dream Rooms, though it was reckoned to be pretty anti-Jang really. You always met lots of Older People with "set ideas" who told you you shouldn't be there, but out having love and ecstasy or sex changes or Sense Distortion, like all young people are usually rigidly expected to have. I went into Jade Tower to steal some jewelery while I waited for her to come gamboling down in her miniature safe pink bird-plane.

Stealing is an absolute art, and one of my few simple pleasures.

There's a big dragon in Jade Tower, bred on some farm near Four BAA. It rattles its jade-plated scales at you, and green fire comes out of its mouth and gives you a really invigorating, pine-scented, all-over shower. I've always liked the dragon. It stirs me in an odd romantic way. I once sat in its nice warm mouth for ages and tried to get Kley to rescue me, but he just took an ecstasy pill and rudely collapsed. I think I'd embarrassed him.

"Attlevey, dragon," I said.

I got into its right ear for a while--it looks like a shell inside--and thought about what I might like to steal, while the dragon roared and sprayed away at everybody. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
By A. Ryan
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A soulless people living in an artificial biosphere in the desert. An advanced civilization turned in upon itself as it reaches levels of hedonism and depravity far surpassing that of the late Roman Empire. A picture of horror disguised as the ultimate beauty and pleasure.
Tanith Lee has created a world in which humans are the obsolete masters of a society so advanced that death itself is impossible. Life on the other hand is an endless pursuit of pleasure for plesaure's sake. No material possession, no experience cannot be had by the elite Jang class of citizens (you could even say it was considered their duty to experiment with play). Work is performed entirely by robot automatons so that humans can indulge themselves in whatever way suits their fancies. Want to try a new body? Commit suicide and come back with a different look, a different gender, antennae if you like. Nothing is criminal or forbidden save one thing: murder.
The depiction of this world ( called 4-B) and an unusual young heroine who dares to buck the system to find meaning in her life resonated with me. Seeing her exhaust every avenue available to her for true self-discovery was a painful and beautiful thing; eventually, she realized that there was something terribly wrong with a society in which God and morals had no place. Therefore, the only option left was to flee from the protection of the AI overseers and their sheltered paradise to become truly human and mortal at last. Reading this was like watching a soul being born.
The author was not exactly covering new territory in her plot line; it became obvious to me halfway through that this was a variation on the popular Biblical tale of the Fall.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insumatt!! July 18 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The first chapter of this book is kind of overwhelming (because of all the slang terms and the different characters) but once you keep on reading it sucks you in. By the end of the book you won't want it to be over! I'm sad that I'm finished reading it. I wish Tanith Lee would have written more books with these characters and with this world. The book is all about a person going against their society and the ridiculous rules/customs associated with it and the boredom of conformity.
This is a powerful book with an engaging and active main character who goes against everything that she/he knows, and an engaging, yet not so engaging, world. The writing style is interesting and often times amusing and humourous (because the main character is often times amusing). The world will suck you in and you'll laugh, cry, and be afraid with the main character.
Being the first book by Tanith Lee that I've ever read, I'm inspired to read more longer works by her (the other things I've read by her being shorter works in genre magazines). Hopefully all her other books will be just as good! Derisann!
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
This (Don't Buy The Sun, DaW ed) was the first Tanith Lee novel I ever read, and as soon as I read it, I immediately sought out everything else she had written. I am primarily a hard SF fan, but this story of the 4's griped me as few other novels had. One of my perrenial favourites is Arthur C. Clarke'ws The City And The Stars. In many ways Biting the Sun is the flip side of Clarke's story in the same way that Halderman's Forever War is a mirror to Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Certainly I think Lee's view of how humans will behave in a pleasant utopian environment, i.e. go quietly nuts, is perhaps more realistic than Clarkes gently rationale beings. Certainly the environment of the 4's presents a rebel with some unusual challenges, i.e. finding something forbidden to do that is not immediately reversed by the equivalent of a house cleaning robot. In some ways the 4's could be the endpoint of the Williamson story "With Folded Hands" where helpful robots have remove all risk etc, from life, taking humanity with it, turning the world into an endless nursery. Biting the Sun is how the protaganist escapes the playpen. It is fun to read, down right hilarious in places (Grey Eyes vs the Food Dispenser), but with a fundamental serious message underlying it. You have to fight to be human, it will cost you, but the prize is worth the cost.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's everything a sci-fi novel should be March 20 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Biting the Sun is made up of two novels, Don't Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine. Don't Bite the Sun familiarizes us with with the young, mostly female protagonist (we never learn her name) and the world in which she lives. In this world you can change bodies and genders as often as you want, all you have to do is kill yourself. You can marry and divorce in the space of an afternoon and there is no such thing as crime. Our protagonist becomes increasingly unhappy with her meaningless life of pleasure and sets out to find something that makes her happy, and in her pursuit she rebels against society. Finally in Drinking Sapphire Whine she commits an act that cannot go unpunished and her life is changed forever.
Biting the Sun is one of the best sci-fi novels I've ever read. It's everything a sci-fi novel should be. Tanith Lee creates a world that fascinates you and characters you genuinely care about. The plot is very ambitious and it's successful in that it says something important about the meaning of life. Even if you aren't fond of sci-fi you should give Biting the Sun a chance.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Stays in your head
This is one of those stories I could never get out of my head. I first read it as a teenager, then tried to find it years later. Read more
Published on July 8 2004 by Random Reviewer
5.0 out of 5 stars Dont put it down
This book is a really really great book. Its part sad/happy/funny and you really feel for the characters. Its set in world similar yet different from ours... Read more
Published on Aug. 3 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book
I really REALLY loved this book. I recommend it all fans of the genre who like stories that are thought-provoking and meaningingful as well as off-beat and highly entertaining.
Published on July 10 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A GROSHING book!!!
Biting the Sun is actally two books in one. It consists of "Don't Bite the Sun" and its sequel, "Drinking Saphire Wine". Read more
Published on March 14 2003 by Renee
5.0 out of 5 stars Can anyone give me more info. on this book?
Hi there:). I've read the summary and excerpt of this book but can anyone tell me whether like she goes on an adventure? finds her love? like happily ever after with one true love? Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2003 by Naomi
5.0 out of 5 stars Anybody can give me info on this book?
Hi there, can anyone give me info. on this book. I mean i read the excerpt & all but what happenes after that? does she go on a sort of adventure? does she fall in love? Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2003 by Naomi
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read in months!
I've read m-a-n-y science fiction/fantasy, and by far, this is the best one I've read in months!!! It is so cool how the main character stays unnamed throughout the whole book and... Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2002 by Neb Kat
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fearsome Look Into A Future Of Pleasure
Amidst a future paradise where pain is virtually obsolete, changing bodies from male to female by request is an everyday occurence, and ambrosia is served sun-up till sundown, why... Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2002 by LatinaView
5.0 out of 5 stars A Derisann Reverse Garden of Eden Paradise
Although I am quite a fan of dystopian novels, I believe that this is much more than futuristic speculation. Read more
Published on June 29 2002
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