Vintage Treasures: To the Resurrection Station by Eleanor Arnason

Vintage Treasures: To the Resurrection Station by Eleanor Arnason

To the Resurrection Station (Avon, October 1986). Cover by Tom Kidd

Eleanor Arnason is a familiar name to anyone who’s been reading short science fiction for the past four decades. Her first story appeared in New Worlds 6 in 1973, and since then she’s published dozens of acclaimed tales in most of the major markets, especially Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Tales of the Unanticipated, and many fine anthologies. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award five times, including “The Potter of Bones” (Best Novella, 2003) and “Stellar Harvest” (Best Novelette, 2000), both published in Asimov’s SF.

Her novel output has been a little thinner, though still highly acclaimed. Her fourth novel, A Woman of the Iron People, won both the inaugural James Tiptree Jr. Award in 1991, and the 1992 Mythopoeic Award. But today I want to talk about her first science fiction novel, the quirky and original far-future tale To the Resurrection Station.

[Click the images to resurrect larger versions.]

New Worlds 6, edited by Michael Moorcock and Charles Platt, containing Arnason’s first published
story, “A Clear Day in the Motor City” (Sphere Books, September 1973). Cover by Bruce Pennington

To the Resurrection Station was Arnason’s second novel, after The Sword Smith (1978). It was published as a paperback original by Avon Books in 1986, and has been out of print since. Pocket Books briefly put a reprint edition on their schedule in November 1988, but it never appeared.

John Clute gave the book his usual pithy appraisal in the online edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

To the Resurrection Station is suffused with Gothic imagery, [and] brings a wide range of characters together in contexts which wittily embody Feminist readings of the world.

His assessment in the original print edition of the Encyclopedia is slightly more substantial.

To the Resurrection Station is a highly baroque science fantasy in which a robot butler may be the ghost of a revered ancestor of the young protagonist, who flees with it… to Earth in search of the eponymous salvation… [Arnason’s] work — much of which acutely and variously tests gender roles — is muscular, sharp-witted, concise and fully packed.

However my favorite review is from prolific short fiction reviewer Charles Payseur, who discussed the book at length at Goodreads.

Arnason’s name was on the cover of most major magazines in the 90s and 2000s.
From top left: Asimov’s Science Fiction July 1994, May 1996, April 1999, and September
1999; The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction December 1999, Asimov’s May 2001 and
September 2002, and Fantasy & Science Fiction July-August 2012 and March-April 2023.
Covers by: Jim Burns, Wojtek Siudmak, Don Dixon, Mark A. Garlick, Jill Bauman,
Dominic Harman, Fred Gambino, Ed Valigursky, and Jill Bauman

Here’s an excerpt from Charles’ review.

Oh man, this book. I picked this up some time ago because of the cover. It looked ridiculous and like a crazy blend of science fiction and maybe some fantastic elements. I think I was hoping for something a bit Douglas Adams-y… Instead this is a slightly more subtle spinning of a very entertaining story.

People comparing this to a gothic text aren’t exactly off in that respect, with Belinda being taken by her guardian (really her uncle) to a remote estate to be married off to a native on the planet that humans have also settled on. I think part of the point of the book, though, is that it uses a lot of these trappings, like the classic gothic tale, like the classic post-apocalyptic Earth, and instead of going the expected direction with them, doesn’t… Because Belinda is very good at bucking expectations. I was quite surprised to find that she was queer, either a lesbian or bisexual (though she never really identifies as either). It was amazing to see that play out…

But the action of the plot takes the characters all over. It’s a fast-paced book that is fun and hard to put down. The characters move from the gothic of Belinda’s familiar estate to a small city to Earth in the far future where intelligent, mutated rats rule much of the world alongside robots who are starting to break down. Through all of this a number of points are made about humanity, about class and power, but I think the most interesting parts for me dealt with the idea that Belinda is creating a new pattern as she goes…

In the end that’s probably why I loved this book so much, because it’s so unlikely, and so optimistic. I just really like it, and am giving it a 9.5/10.

Read the whole review here.

To the Resurrection Station was published by Avon Books in October 1986. It is 276 pages, priced at $3.50. The cover is by Tom Kidd. It has been out of print since 1986, although Aqueduct Press released a digital edition in 2015.

Our previous coverage of Eleanor Arnason includes:

The Sword Smith (2012)
A Woman of the Iron People (2020)

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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Eugene R.

I remember Ms. Arnason’s stories in Asimov’s and her breakout A Woman of the Iron People, but I completely missed her gonzo second novel, To the Resurrection Station. Another entry for the Great Used Book Hunting List. Thank you, Mr. O’Neill!

Eugene R.

Same, but different. My career was in high gear, too, but I was commuting by train(s) (3 of them, actually) and I used to have time to read magazines and books. These days, it is only books, and a pile of Asimov’s and F&SF issues from the late 2000s staring at me, unread.

Rich Horton

Eleanor Arnason is one of my favorite writers, but I haven’t read this novel — I will do so pronto!

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