Yet as Riveted progresses, Annika and David's story proves not to be a meditation on gender roles, for Brook takes for granted the equality of the sexes that Gilman and feminists in the 1960s and 70s could only imagine. Instead, Brook uses the trope of the hidden single-sex society to meditate on heroism as it relates to sexuality. In particular, through Annika and David's developing romantic heterosexual relationship, Brook explores how heterosexuals might become allies to those with different sexual orientations.
Yet a stranger does step in. But not only out of the goodness of heart. For twenty years, David Kentewess has been trying to fulfill a promise made to his dying mother, a promise to find her people and return to them the runes she wore around her neck. But during her life, David's mother had been remarkably cagey about just where she came from, and David has had few clues to help him in his search until he hears Annika's voice, speaking with an accent he'd only heard once before, from his mother's lips. Thus, he intervenes with the guard, knowing that he'll gain the chance to talk with her after his technologically-enhanced arm, legs, and eye frighten the man away. Haven't they frightened almost everyone in the New World away, including any woman in whom David has ever taken an interest?
As a passenger on Annika's airship, David tries everything to convince her to reveal what he knows about his mother's people; Annika, already scarred by thoughtlessly risking the lives of everyone in her village, does nothing but refuse. Even the obvious and growing attraction between herself and this gentle outsider cannot persuade Annika to betray her trust, and the two decide to separate.
"For someone, it's easy. For something, though... I think it's harder to die for something you believe in. To stand up and to say that something else is wrong. I said it to my friend, but would I shout it abroad this ship? I don't know. I'd be too afraid of what would happen to me, because so many people think as she does. I hate myself for this."
"When you're surrounded by stupidity, self-preservation isn't a sin."
"Refusing to challenge that stupidity and letting it continue might end up hurting someone you love, later. I'd die to protect them, but not to tell people that I've kissed a woman, too?" (180)
And David, too, must learn to see himself as an ally, rather than an outsider, if he and Annika are to have any sort of future together. For as Iceland becomes ever-more populated, that future must include helping the women of Hannasvik gradually come out of isolation. Källa left Hannasvik not only because she wished to help her sister, but because she believed that her people could not continue to hide the existence of Hannasvik from the ever-increasing populace of Iceland. After her own adventures, Annika agrees, and works to persuade her mothers of the same. "We can start small, here," Annika tells them. "And never back down."
No longer a rabbit, hiding at the first sign of danger, Annika will pick her battles, as well as when to conduct them. Annika can become a positive ally to her mothers' lesbian society even as she recognizes that she can no longer be a part of it now that she chooses to make a life with David. She can be that ally not only because of her love for her mothers, but also because her heterosexual love for David, and his for her, gives them both the courage to embrace hope, rather than be led by fear.
Hats off to Ms. Brooks, not only for showing us that not all feminists have to be kick-ass actions heroes, but for writing a sweet, touching romance, as well.
Meljean Brook, Riveted. Berkeley, 2012.
• Wonder Woman Paradise Island: Suduvo.com
• Airship: Liss@Random
• Steampunk Whale: CurtisRU
• Stand Up for What You Believe In: Postitsforlove
Next time on RNFF:
Enjoy your after-Thanksgiving Friday!
And look for another RNFF review on the 27th