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MASK FOR THE GENERAL [Mass Market Paperback]

Lisa Goldstein
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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From Publishers Weekly

The General took over leadership of the United States at the time of the Collapse. In 2021, food is still rationed, movement within the country is curtailed and political strictures are so tight that rehabilitation centers are burgeoning. In California, a group of dissidents has collected in tribes, adopting Indian animism customs, one of which involves discovering their animal spirits and wearing identifying masks. Seventeen-year-old Mary has moved from Stockton to Berkeley in search of a maskmaker to tell her what animal she is and to make her a mask. Shortly after arriving she meets the famed Layla and her group of friends, all of whom are subversive in different ways and to different degrees. Mary is honored when Layla wants to take her on as her apprentice but, because she is an epileptic, fears entering the trances required of a maskmaker. Layla makes a crow mask for the General (so he might find his soul), precipitating the action that allows Mary to find her own path while remaining faithful both to Layla and herself. Echoing other ominous futuristic tales, Goldstein's new novel (The Red Magician and Dream Years) is neither very original nor chilling.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Five years after the economic collapse of the United States, the masked tribespeople of Berkeley retain a precarious hold on individual and intellectual freedom until two womenLayla the maskmaker and a newcomer called Marytake an unprecedented risk to bring down the totalitarian rule of America's dictator, a man known as The General. In transplanting the consciousness of the 1960s to the near-future, the author of Dream Years has created a brilliant parable of nonviolent revolution. Recommended. JC
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but flawed June 28 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is one of Lisa Goldstein's weaker works. Since it still garnered four stars from me, this is hardly a sign that it is a weak book.
The story takes place is a slightly futuristic America. The USA as this world knows it was ruined by a sudden economic collapse, and taken over by a dictator mostly known (Surprise) as the General. People with dissenting opinions are sent into 'rehab' facilities.
The story centers around two women living in this world. The first is Mary, young and idealistic, travelling to Berkely, California, where the Tribes, an underground culture centered around masks, has arisen. There she meets Layla, one of the mask-makers, and most respected among the Tribal folk. Mary is drawn to this world, but soon begins to fear that Layla has gone past the point of religious belief into troubling madness. Layla, in the meantime, tries to persuade Mary to follow her path.
The story succeeds best in its characters. Even bit parts are given their own motives, and attitudes. It also triumphs on occasion with the setting, the strange world in which these chracters live. It works the least well where Ms. Goldstein is obviously taking the Berkeley and San Francisco she knows, and tearing them down. But when she conjures up the small apartments, each of which reflects its owner, the mood of streets, then the world seems real enough to touch.
Unfortunately, this story does have weak spots, and most of them relate to plot. The story's end suits the underlying themes of the story perfectly, and suggests, without outright telling, how the future of the country will go, but leaves a great many threads dangling. The most obvious example is the character of Nick.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but flawed June 28 2000
By Lenora Heikkinen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is one of Lisa Goldstein's weaker works. Since it still garnered four stars from me, this is hardly a sign that it is a weak book.
The story takes place is a slightly futuristic America. The USA as this world knows it was ruined by a sudden economic collapse, and taken over by a dictator mostly known (Surprise) as the General. People with dissenting opinions are sent into 'rehab' facilities.
The story centers around two women living in this world. The first is Mary, young and idealistic, travelling to Berkely, California, where the Tribes, an underground culture centered around masks, has arisen. There she meets Layla, one of the mask-makers, and most respected among the Tribal folk. Mary is drawn to this world, but soon begins to fear that Layla has gone past the point of religious belief into troubling madness. Layla, in the meantime, tries to persuade Mary to follow her path.
The story succeeds best in its characters. Even bit parts are given their own motives, and attitudes. It also triumphs on occasion with the setting, the strange world in which these chracters live. It works the least well where Ms. Goldstein is obviously taking the Berkeley and San Francisco she knows, and tearing them down. But when she conjures up the small apartments, each of which reflects its owner, the mood of streets, then the world seems real enough to touch.
Unfortunately, this story does have weak spots, and most of them relate to plot. The story's end suits the underlying themes of the story perfectly, and suggests, without outright telling, how the future of the country will go, but leaves a great many threads dangling. The most obvious example is the character of Nick. A traitor to the Tribes, he is shown in strong detail in the first third, implying he will become important again, then vanishes, with only a few further references to hint at his fate. The book was so well-written overall that I can forgive these plot weaknesses, and would still recommend the book, but they do mar an otherwise exceedingly pleasant reading experience.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A platonic same-sex love story--but an unconvincing one Jan. 1 2012
By Jasper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Bottom line: A platonic same-sex love story--something I've never read before--marred by the odd, matter-of-fact writing style, which manages to make events that should be gripping dull and flat.

Trigger warnings: Botched abortion (in the past, not described), person who needs medication purposefully separated from their medication (a character keeps an epileptic woman from her meds, in order to "free" her from dependency on them), discussion of insanity (some characters are seen by parts of society as insane), murder of secondary character (not graphic), drug abuse, controlling parent (father; no physical abuse).

How does it treat women/same-sex relationships? Sexism is never explicitly addressed, but seems similar to present-day U.S.A. In the dystopian 2021 setting, only married couples are allowed birth control by the government and single mothers are (as in the present day) censured by society. The relationship between the two main women characters is the core of the story, with their platonic relationship honored as love, above one main character's sexual relationship with a man.

Does it have explicit sex scenes?: It has one semi-explicit m/f sex scene. It's very brief, and described in only a handful of matter-of-fact sentences.

Would I read it again? Possibly. It was unusual enough, I might.

Would I publish it? Yes, just because platonic love stories are rare. I would try very hard to work with the author to add emotional depth and complexity to the story, though.

SPOILERS BELOW

This was a very unusual book, but, at the same time, a very dull read. I'm puzzled by it. It looks at the place of physical and mental health and disabilities in a dystopia--what happens when people no longer have access to the medications that let them control certain conditions? How does needing medication determine someone's loyalties? Are conventional definitions of sanity and health accurate? It also looks at platonic same-sex love, which I've never seen explicitly done. In the book, the main women characters realize, at the novel's conclusion, that their friendship, though it has no sexual component, is still love--and the one potential different-sex sexual romantic relationship collapses in the face of the cynicism of the male half of the couple, who is unable to elevate his emotional involvement to the level of love. The novel also does not condemn sex. It honestly seems to say that platonic love and sexual love can both be romantic and equivalent, with one not better than the other.

The book's worth reading just for that. However, reading it isn't much *fun.* The story should be exciting--there's arrest, time in a prison camp, breaking into a police department, betrayal... Instead, it's dull and unconvincing. The characters float through each hardship without ever seeming truly in danger or inconvenienced. The novel's style describes everything as though the events were unremarkable and everyday. The prison camp seems remarkably pleasant, punishments for disobedience of the government remarkably mild and infrequent, the few deaths remarkably--unremarkable. It all seems easy. The emotional connections of the characters and their development are described, but not felt. I never once felt emotionally involved or emotionally convinced by the characters or the plot.

A very odd book.
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