Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Traveling to the Twelve Kingdoms

I am in awe of the world building in The Twelve Kingdoms series. Not only does it have ridiculously off the wall ideas, but it pursues them to logical extremes and often leaves me wondering, "Would that actually work in the real world?"

In this world, babies grow on trees. Yeah, you read that right. Sounds silly and whimsical, right? Well, it's actually pretty intriguing. A married couple goes to pray on a specific day and wraps their prayer on a branch of the tree. If the heavens deem them capable of being good parents, a child grows for a year on that branch, and then, when it's ripe, they whack it with a rock to crack the eggfruit shell, and the baby is born. Because it's so hard to get a child, children are quite highly valued.

Think of the sociological implications! Women don't spend months increasingly incapacitated; they don't breastfeed. Either parent can serve as primary caretaker, but mostly the responsibility is shared. Both parents can work on the farm or serve in the government. Wild, right?

And then there's the way that the society is set up. Until age 20, children are taken care of and taught how to take care of themselves. At age 20, they receive a standard land grant in the town where they're registered. They can sell it and take the money to open up a shop in a town. They can trade it if they marry someone from another place. The plots of land are laid out in a standard way so that there are 8 plots and 1 communal plot in each grouping. Unless the kingdom is in turmoil, no one who works has to risk starvation. And if you can't work or are under 20 or over 60, you live in the communal house and are taken care of. In a small country with mainly agricultural land going for it, this could really work! Just like every other system, it works better in theory-world where no actual humans are involved, but still.

Anyway, I wrote a bit elsewhere about it, and I do highly recommend picking up the series not if you're interested because the publisher just went under, so the books are now technically out of print.  Good luck finding the first one for anything approaching a reasonable price.  The fourth one ends in a good place. When I finished it, I got a bit teary-eyed because I might never read a new volume again, but I'm really grateful for the four we did get.  I hope someone rescues this license and reissues the books (and maybe does a better job marketing them to the wider audience they richly deserve).

Have you read this series? Your thoughts?

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