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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended
Had this book not been a gift, I would never have thought to pick it up. Science fiction, Jewish mysticism; these are not subjects which immediately draw most people in. I'm eternally grateful I did give this book a chance, however, for it is definately one of the best books I have ever read. Weaving together two parallel stories, (the legend of a "Golem"...
Published on March 24 1998

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3.0 out of 5 stars He, She and It from a Technological Perspective
"He, She and It" is an intoxicating book about the future. From a technological perspective, the lives portrayed in the ultramodern societies of Tikva and the Y-S Enclave is right on target. How far away are we really from the Earth that Marge Piercy describes? With the impending war with Iraq on our heels, maybe the 2 Week War of 2017 where a terrorist launched a...
Published on March 19 2003


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended, March 24 1998
By A Customer
Had this book not been a gift, I would never have thought to pick it up. Science fiction, Jewish mysticism; these are not subjects which immediately draw most people in. I'm eternally grateful I did give this book a chance, however, for it is definately one of the best books I have ever read. Weaving together two parallel stories, (the legend of a "Golem" created to protect the Jews in Prague's Jewish Ghetto in the 1600s, and the contemporary story of the cyborg Yod), Piercy has created a view of the future a la Margaret Atwood. Yet Piercy's view of the future, while almost as threatening as Atwood's in The Handmaid's Tale, contains the ever present spectre of redemption. While the characters in He, She, and It may live in a forebidding time when corporations rule the world, they maintain a level of autonomy over their own lives, and the knowledge and power to someday create a world more suited to freedom than that in which they currently reside. Piercy's book is fascinating on a number of levels. It is simultaneously the story of a mother's love for her child and the lengths she will go to when that relationship is threatened, a strong community and the familial, religious, and communal ties that bind a group of people together, a cautionary tale of corporate domination, a fascinating hypothesis of both the possibilities and dangers of modern technology, and above all, a romance. The elements of Jewish history and mysticism add to the excitement and passion of the book, enabling the parallel Piercy draws between the past and the future to flow naturally, and add to rather than detract from the book's clarity. Nor are the characters sacrificed for a well-developed plot. Piercy spends just as much time creating the characters who enable her story as she does on the story itself. I would recommend this book to a wide audience. It is as enjoyable as any beach read, but without sacrificing readability, will leave the reader with a lot to think about. You will have no trouble understanding the book after one read, but it is the kind of book you can read many times and learn something new each time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Matrix Revisited, March 12 2004
This novel is fully science-fiction in genre (for Marge Piercy is not afraid to dabble in whatever style interests her, from historical fiction, to memoir, to sci-fi, to poetry.) And "He, She and It" has many elements found in "The Matrix" (but "He, She and It" came out way before "Matrix) You wonder if the makers of that hit film series owe Ms. Piercy an enormous monetary debt of gratitude.
The story centers around Shira, a bright young woman who makes a bad mistake; she marries the wrong man. Pigeonholed by the large "multi" (corporation) who bid for her services when she graduated, she's living on borrowed time in the safe but stifling domed city built by her multi to house the workers and managers against the perils of the polluted open lands and even more perillous decayed and overpopulated metropolis ("Glop" for short.)
Shira doesn't realize how short her time really is, and how soon she will be moving on, leaving behind her job, and much much, more of value to her. She moves home to one of the free cities on the seashore, deemed unsafe by virtue of severe weather (a gift of global warming.) She moves in with her grandmother and takes a job with Avram, a cybernetics expert. Avram has created a golem, a robot, a protector of the Jewish free city. Shira is hired to teach the robot, and develops a strange relationship with the creature, who, like Frankenstein's monster, is filled with both love and hate. Meanwhile, she must deal with her own past and past loves, and learn why she made bad decisions. Shira threads a path filled with dangers, but comes out stronger and wiser. Not without a high price, however.
Piercy mixes the legend of the Golem from the Ghetto of Prague (a clay creature created by a rabbi to protect the people from a pogrom) and a fast-paced parallel story full of adventure. This story-by-story structure will be familiar to readers of other novels by Piercy such as "Woman on the Edge of Time" where a woman in an insane asylum shifts between her present reality and the future of the year 2037.
This is an extraordinary novel. If you liked "The Matrix" and "The Handmaid's Tale" you will love "He, She and It." I don't think it's quite as good as Piercy's superb "Woman on the Edge of Time" but this is a worthy novel that had me reading it cover to cover without stopping. Highly recommended.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Logically Bad Science Fiction, April 20 2003
By 
C. Hoekstra (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
One of the most astonishing things I found about Marge Piercy was that she had actually written science fiction before this. In all honesty, I would have bet serious money that she had had no contact with science since leaving high school.
At the time of this review, I am a fourth year computer science student at a major university. I have been online for the better part of a decade, and I know how computers and the people who use them work, at least to a whole order of magnitude more than the author.
Now, I will give credit where it´¿s due. Marge Piercy is a competent writer with good technical skill. Her characters of Shira (heroine, woman trying to find her way in the world), Malkah (mother), and Yod (android who slowly grows to be human over the course of the novel in a very fine transition) are all distinct and well fleshed out.
What aggravated me most is how totally and utterly...blind some of them were! UGG!!! There are several scenes were Shira, who recounts and describes things to the reader, does not see what is so plain and obvious and then reacts with surprise and horror when it finally dawns on her!! For example, she describes her mother to the reader, mentioning her mother´¿s predilection for remaining unattached and taking various partners to bed. This is a prominent point. Then she describes how ´¿close´¿ her mother seems to the android Yod and vice versa. And then reacts with shock several chapters later when she learns the two of them were sleeping together. I had been thinking ´¿She slept with the android´¿ after reading for aforementioned paragraphs. Really, it´¿s not Shira´¿s fault; she inherited it from her mother Malkah. Seriously, how thick do you have to be to react to two (it´¿s been a little while since I read this, so the number could be off by 2-3) cyber attacks that leave members of your community in a vegetative state, three more that KILL progressively higher ranking people, the LAST one being your own apprentice (!), with the statement ´¿I never saw this coming´¿ when it happens to you? That was the only time in my life I have ever thrown down a book in disgust.
The thing that killed me the most about this book was that the technology in this world was just SO illogical! For starters, Shira states right at the beginning of the book that the city sized dome she lives under (suburbs, mansions, factories, shopping district, office buildings) has no building higher than six stories, but the author gives no reason for this. I´¿ve come to assume it´¿s because the DOME is no higher than six stories. We later even see a dome built in the ruins of a contemporary city, complete with intact abandoned skyscrapers, that´¿s also only six stories high. Considering the angle of arch required for a self supporting dome (no mention of support columns and the like is given) the angle and ceiling height would have to be immense for a dome to cover a whole city! Shira´¿s home town also sports a dome, but it suffers from numerous seeming contradictions and lack of description. Now a question to all those sci fi movie buffs out there; if you were to build an android who was to protect your town both in cyberspace and reality, and you were designing it from the ground up, would you base your design on Ash/Bishop from the Alien/Aliens movies, or the T-800 from the Terminator movies? Wild guess if Mrs. Piercy agrees.
To top it all off, at the very end, Shira realizes that she cannot rebuild Yod, but for TOTALLY the wrong reasons!! The reason that Yod worked at all, we learn, is that his AI personality was designed to learn and grow like a child. It grew in accordance to what happened around it; in other words, it was subjectively based. Thus, Shira couldn´¿t recreate him the way he was anyway, as she´¿d have to duplicate his whole life! It doesn´¿t matter how cruel it is to bring him back against his wishes (her rationalization), it couldn´¿t be done anyway! And I´¿m not even going to go into the whole fact that he was a MACHINE, with a mechanical brain, which could have been BACKED UP(!) rather than let him be destroyed.
A final thing that annoyed me to no end was how computers were used in this world. The user seems to have a godlike ability to create whatever they want, yet these people have zero imagination in creating defences. There were even instances of things that made me say ´¿We can stop attacks like that NOW.´¿ Also see the back up note in the above paragraph. All in all, I got the feeling that these characters really had no clue about how computers work in the real world. Same for societies of computer users. MUCKs and MUDs have been around for 30 years or more now. And given the popularity of games like Everquest and other MMORPGs now, and the fact that people in this universe have known that age and gender can be changed for years, Yod being the first one to discover that any shape can be taken in cyberspace just flies in the face of history.
To end things, I just want to say that while the characters are well thought out, the story flows nicely, there is a great parallel story about a Golem in the 1600s and it adds a few nice twists to sci fi. On the (glaringly) bad side, we have a scientifically illogical world, characters that are dense and blind, some ravening stereotypes for lesser characters, and a complete lack of understanding of the field she bases almost all the action around. If you want a good love story, this passes for it. But if you have any real background in science, stay away and avoid the headaches.
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3.0 out of 5 stars He, She and It from a Technological Perspective, March 19 2003
By A Customer
"He, She and It" is an intoxicating book about the future. From a technological perspective, the lives portrayed in the ultramodern societies of Tikva and the Y-S Enclave is right on target. How far away are we really from the Earth that Marge Piercy describes? With the impending war with Iraq on our heels, maybe the 2 Week War of 2017 where a terrorist launched a nuclear device that destroyed the world as we know it, is not so futuristic after all.
"He, She and It" is a love story between Shira, a woman of the modern world and Yod, a cyborg. Piercy cleverly parallels the story of Shira and Yod with that of Chava and Joseph. Joseph, the golem of Prague's Jewish ghetto in the 15th century. Although the stories of Yod & Joseph are the heart of Piercy's novel, let me also share with you the technological perspectives.
In "He, She and It", Piercy describes some of the most amazing technological advances. The first and most astonishing of those is Yod, the cyborg. Yod looks just like a human, yet he has the power of a large bomb within him. What is even more surprising about Yod is that he has feelings and the ability to learn from social interactions. In other words, Yod can teach himself from experiencing the environment.
Piercy also mentions many other new technologies that come about after enclaves of monolithic corporations replace governments (is this really so far-fetched?). There is a new field, psychoengineering, an interface between people and large artificial intelligences. Shira is able to tell time simply by thinking that she needed to know what time it was and then reading the internal clock on the corner of her cornea in an eye that has retinal implants, used to correct hereditary myopia! She is also able to project into the worldwide Net (similar to what we know as virtual reality) through a "little silver socket at her temple."
Still, Piercy mentions more. Horsicles (horse robots), moving sidewalks, float cars and zips are the transportation modalities of the future. A main chore of this modern world is to protect their data from information pirates. While people may bodily protect themselves with resin knives with hypercharged particles that are able to cut through a diamond yet not show up on any sensor. The list goes on and on.
In conclusion, "He, She and It" is a wonderfully entertaining book about love, about loss, about the future of our planet. It has the ability to make those in the field of technology stop and take a look at what we are creating versus what we really want to create. Take a read yourself and discovery the vivid imagination of Piercy.
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3.0 out of 5 stars He, She And It, Nov. 21 2002
This one was tough-going for me because of all the anti-male propaganda slipped under the door. Normally I don't find feminist SF that hard to deal with, but my favourite novels in this subgenre are either much more direct, therefore not guilty of trying to slip misandry under the door, or focus more on the generalized positive aspects of woman rather than the generalized loathsomeness of man.
Anyway, the plot: in the future, the environment has been reduced to a wasteland, and corporations rule various scattered enclaves. Shira forsakes corporate control once she loses her son to her estranged husband, and returns to her roots: a Dome where the Jewish way of life endures and her family waits to take her in (not Israel--Israel is too radioactive for anybody at this point). Shira meets a cyborg named Yod, who has been illegally constructed and programmed by a brilliant but cold scientist named Avram and Shira's very own ramrod of a grandmother, Malkah. Sick of men, Shira becomes Yod's lover (later discovering she was not his first!), and becomes more and more involved with the politics of the Dome, as it is ever-threatened by outside forces. Yod, created as an ultimate weapon--weapon of defense, of course--has a side to his personality that Shira must learn to accept, but she does more than this when she decides to put Yod's violent capabilities to her own use, with consequences she could not foresee. Among the mix of characters are Gadi, Shira's old boyfriend, Josh, Shira's husband who has custody of their son, a no-nonsense woman warrior named Nili, and various corporate spies, assassins and villains. Meanwhile, every third chapter features Malkah relating the ancient tale of Prague's protector, The Golem, as he was said to exist in 1600. Of course, The Golem and his fable are presented as a parallel to Yod's existence, but the final fate's of each are somewhat different.
As a male reader, I did, at certain points, feel like abandoning the book--and not because it never really goes beyond the predictable, in terms of plot. It does suffer that problem; it is dramatic, but rather predictable. But the real unpalatable part for me was the negative depiction of all males anywhere. Women are virtuous, men are not. Women are gentle, men are not. Women can be trusted, men cannot. Faults found in women make them complex, well-rounded individuals, helping them down from the pedestal. Faults in men just show what's wrong with them overall, and are just another nail in the coffin. Yod's creator, Malkah--female--is responsible for the good in Yod. Yod's other creator, Avram--male--unlikeable, insensitive, cold, the ultimate negatively-drawn logical male scientist. Women have fifty different emotions, men have two. Women make sense. Men are the great mystery; they don't make sense.
So there. Further proof that a member of one gender can come up with a complete profile of the other gender and demonstrate that they have given up on trying to understand that gender, and just decide "this must be the truth". All I learned from that was that we are even less different than Marge Piercy would like to think.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Different Twist, May 2 2002
Marge Piercey's He, She, and It is a slightly different twist on the usual futuristic narrative of corporate control and artificial intelligence. Piercey takes readers on an emotionally and intellectually challenging visit to the near future, where humanity, sexuality, gender, family, community, and spirituality all have different meanings than they do today. The novel questions the definition of these concepts, both in the fictional world, and in contemporary society.
The book allows Shira Shipman, the main character, as she moves from the corporate enclave where she works and lives, to the Jewish settlement where she was raised by her grandmother. Central to the development of the story is Shira's interactions with Yod, a "cyborg" (really an android) built to protect the Jewish settlement from coprporate attackers.
When the novel opens, we learn that Shira's marriage is falling apart, and that her life in the corporate enclave is less than satisfying. She loses her son in divorce proceedings, and when her gradmother asks Shira to return to Tikva, the settlement where she was raised, and to accept a job working for a family friend, Shira agrees.
Shira's new job is to train Yod, the cyborg built to protect the settlement. Yod is the tenth creation of Avram, a Tikva resident who works with artificial intelligence defense systems. Unlike his nine predecessors, Yod is almost flawless: he is practically indistinguishable from a human, except for his behavior. Shira is to teach Yod how to be human, so that he can blend in with the population of Tikva. This is crucial, because in the twenty-first century world of Piercey's novel, a creature like Yod is illegal. Artificially intelligent machines cannot resemble humans.
When Shira first begins to work with Yod, she thinks of "it" as a very complex machine, but no more. As the two work together, however, Shira comes to see Yod as something closer to human: he learns, feels, and thinks much like she and the other Tikva residents. Shira and Yod eventually become involved in a romantic relationship, and, after a mission to recover Shira's child, Yod becomes a "father."
Running parallel to the main plot is the story of Jacob As the sixteenth century turned into the seventeenth, rabbi Judah Loew created a golem from clay in order to protect the residents of the Jewish ghetto from the Christian inhabitants of Prague. Shira's grandmother, who programmed Yod, leaves portions of Jacob's story in the settlement's communication network. Slowly, Yod learns the story of the golem, who existed centuries before him and yet with whom he shares so much.
As Yod's and Jacob's stories unfold, Piercey leads her readers through the rich details of her fictional world. Sometimes beautiful, often harsh, the landscape of He, She, and It is a vivid backdrop for Piercey's exploration of life as we may know it. Piercey's novel questions hierarchy, humanity, and community. In the end, Piercey scrutinizes the creative power of humans, and the implications of using that creative power to "play god" by making artificially intelligent beings.
While some of the reviewers of this book thought the paralell stories were confusing or contrived, I think they serve a useful narrative purpose. I found Jacob's story to be as engaging as the main plot. Additionally, one previous reviewer noted that the stereotypes were offensive. I respect this reviewer's opinion, and would like to offer my interpretation. From a practical standpoint, pidgin and creole language varieties are certainly likely to evolve in such a setting. The glop speak, which seems to be derived from no particular ethnic group, but to be a fictional slang-based language variety informed by technology and pop culture, apprears to be the lingua franca of the areas outside of the enclaves. Additionally, portraying a grandmother as a sexual being can be read different ways by readers: I prefer to read her as a woman unafraid to admit that she has desires. That, to me, is empowering.
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5.0 out of 5 stars State-of-the-art humanity, April 16 2000
Piercy's consolidated reputation as a major American writer rests not only on her lucid verbal skills. Her uncanny ability to extrapolate significant future trends from contemporary social and cultural phenomena is a prominent facet of her work, although perhaps not since "Woman on the Edge of Tme" has she honed her cutting edges so wickedly sharp. In this complex, potentially controversial novel she draws on multinational corporations, bionics and organ piracy, post-militant feminism, drastic pollution of the environment, the proliferation of the Internet, hackers, the development of synthetic foods, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality entertainment to imagine the Earth of 2050 and, contriving an ominously plausible background for a searching story, poses numerous unsettling questions, of which the most provocative is: what constitutes a human being? For a brilliant male scientist has unlawfully built a cyborg in human form, and an equally brilliant female scientist has so sapiently programmed its personality that her granddaughter Shira falls inevitably in love with Yod, the tenth experimental model in the series, who is just what she feels a man should be. Yod's experiences are deftly reflected in a cautionary retelling of the kabbalistic legend of a Golem crudely created in Prague in 1600 to protect the Jewish ghetto, just as Yod has been made as a defense weapon for the data-base of a beleaguered free community in Piercy's disquieting next-generation world where technology marks the watershed between haves and have-nots.
"He, She, and It" will intrigue mature readers with speculative minds who also enjoy dextrous plotting, an unusual setting, and a dynamic story rife with action, original characters, and profound moral conflict.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Shall we create life to serve ourselves?-a woman's debate, May 14 1999
By A Customer
I read Chapter 3 and was hooked("Malkah Tells Yod a Bedtime Story" - pure poetry)! I felt right at home. Rarely have I read a science fiction novel which explores inner life so well. Nor one which so successfully analyzes its moral issues from the intelligent woman's point of view. One is reminded of Golda Meir, holding informal cabinet meetings in her kitchen while making chicken soup. The book examines the high-tech net as a tool for a simple low-tech ethnic collective which can exist on its own apart from impersonal futurist worlds nearby seeking to invade. The characters debate the destiny of their advanced, powerful protective robot. One of the robot's creators is a (high-tech) grandmother who tells the robot the Yiddish fable of a Golem who was created to protect the Jews of Prague from pogroms in 1600. We keep returning to the fable - it creates just the intuitive symbolism we need to explore the novel's ethical concepts without losing track of the action. The book unfolds as a mystery, a love story, a question - I found myself reading to answer the unexplained, enjoying the beautifully crafted journey, and staying up all night to do so.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly engrossing and believable view of the future., June 25 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: He, She And It (Hardcover)
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I enjoy it so much that I feel compelled to share it with others. In fact, I never have a copy of it, because every time I buy one I give it away to yet another friend!
The story is set in a not-too-distant future dystopia, where megacorporations rule the world and small, entrepreneurial communities have to fight to protect their unique cultures, products and people. Today's familiar technologies have evolved to the extent that the "net" is a virtual world as well as a communications medium, and artificial intelligence is everywhere.
Add to this an intriguing and varied cast of characters -- including an all-too-human cyborg -- a dollop of Jewish mysticism and some flashbacks to the Middle Ages, and you have a book that you will not want to put down.

So, take the phone off the hook, send the kids to your mother's, and put your feet up. It's gonna be a great weekend
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3.0 out of 5 stars both historical fiction and sci-fi, June 9 2004
This novel presents parallel stories of the Golum of Prague and the cyborg of the future, both "men" created to protect the societies in which they were "born." Both evolve beyond "creature" or "robot" to become self-aware and fall in love with a human woman, and thus become so threatening that they are destroyed by the humans they seek to embrace. As a non-Jewish reader, I was inspired to look up the history of the golum in Jewish Kabbalah legends and surprised to find out that there is a statue of the legendary golum in Prague. The story stalls in the middle third as the same-old-love-story unfolds ... tediously. I would have liked more depth and detail on the various societies Piercy hints at in the future, expecially the great masses that survive in apparent anarchy in this post-apocalyptic world. The ending is too pat; why didn't Yod disappear into the Glop? Great concept, though.
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He, She And It
He, She And It by Marge Piercy (Hardcover - Oct. 15 1991)
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