Gash of the Titans, by Clara J Douglass, is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic science fiction novel. Set in a future where global warming and nuclear war have transformed the Earth into a wasteland, this novel follows the adventures of Donthiki (also known as Dawn) a human woman with a strange genetic mutation—a fanged vagina. This is not, as its playful title and hilarious tagline might suggest, campy erotica. This a well-written saga reminiscent of old-school science fiction and adventure books. It takes itself seriously, and its epic style and careful, realistic details whisk the reader into a Jungian cave splashed with campfire light where mythic stories not only entertain us, but reveal much about our past and current reality.
The story follows Dawn from a small, scared girl living in a coop in a gender-segregated tenement just outside of Feenix in the kingdom of Eplunum, to a self-possessed woman who accepts her bizarre mutation and learns how to draw strength from it. Dawn’s resilience and courage are contagious, and the self-confidence she discovers becomes the catalyst for a revolution. In her world, men and women live separately—women in cages in squalid conditions, and men in cities who seem to occupy their time with leisure and Roman circus-like games. The men use the women for slave labor, forcing them to work the fields and raise animals to supply the men with food. The men also use them for fornication and breeding, taking male babies to be raised as men in the cities while leaving girls to learn the servile life of the women in the slums.
This book is for adults, and is both erotic and violent. The polyamorous sexual relationships of the women with each other contrast sharply with the sexual brutality visited on them by the men. The theme that women are the people who bring life into the world, nurture and grow things, is highlighted by their tender lovemaking. They use sex to heal and comfort each other and to strengthen bonds of friendship within the impoverished, close-knit community.
The men in this future weaponize sex. They use it to control, to dominate. One of the main villains, an utterly vile sadist named Boaz, prefers men sexually, but enjoys dominating and torturing women. Although he has some sort of tryst with a male guard, he doesn’t seem cable of anything approaching a loving relationship. He, like the other men in Eplunum, are too concerned with dominating and humiliating everything around them to care about things like nurturing or cooperation—two things the women understand innately.
Although how, exactly, the genders became divided isn’t addressed, I didn’t find it difficult to imagine something like this happening. Throughout history, women have been treated as less than, as subhuman, as sexual objects, and property. It’s actually much easier to envision such a future than one where humanity has solved all of its religious and economic differences (Star Trek) or many worlds where a large number of the inhabitants seem to be humans (Star Wars.)
Douglass is a master of both action and sex. The fight scenes are impressive and easy to visualize—the consensual sex scenes are electrifying. The book boasts several surprising twists, some “oh, no!” moments, and enough bloody battle sequences to make George R. R. Martin proud.
All in all, this is a beautifully told revenge-tale. It should be cathartic for anyone who has suffered at the hands of men or feels sickened by the misogyny being normalized by the Trump administration. It is, however, gory and brutal, and some readers might find the violence triggering.
I’m giving Gash of the Titans five out of five stars. If you’re looking for an exciting dystopian adventure with a strong female lead, add Gash of the Titans to your to-be-read list today.