Feminist science fiction novel by Joan Slonczewski

Title: A Door into Ocean (Elysium Cycle)

Author: Jean Slonczewski

Publish Date: 1986

Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates

Type: Novel

Genre: Science Fiction

Sub-Genre: Parthenogenesis, Armed Conflict, Alternate Societies, Alien Worlds, Starships, Space Travel, Advanced Medicine, Romance, Robots, Viruses, Galactic Empires, Martial Law

Plot Summary:

Spinel is a commoner; a stonecutter’s son. He has yet to obtain a sponsor to earn his ability to apply a trade. So he wanders as a beggar does in the market where he spies a pair of strange women, whose homes are on the distant Ocean Moon.

In a short conversation with them, the leader of the two, Merwen, made a decision that would forever change Spinel’s life. He was asked to return to the Ocean Moon via starship to learn of the ocean and teach them of this stone moon.

After arrival, Spinel soon discovers that this new world of only ocean was far from what he expected it to be. And Merwen’s daughter, Lystra, was appalled that her mother would bring back a male freak to live among the all-female population of Shora.

Soon it becomes evident that the world of stone, called Valen, wanted more of Shora than the women they were willing to lose.

And now Spinel is in the middle of his home world and that of the ocean world that asked him to join their way of life.


Shora is a planet of wonders. Its inhabitants are humans, evolved of the centuries to survive on a fully ocean-covered planet. They have evolved beyond the need for males, and only females are born to the parthenogenic beings known as Sharers.

Spinel is the son of a stonecutter on Valen, but he still hasn’t decided where he wants to go to learn a trade. And then he encounters two women Sharers from Shora and he begins a journey to their home to learn their ways, and share his new knowledge with them.

Shora holds many dreams for the people of Valen; sea silks, medicines, and abundant fish. To a world of stone, these are irresistible, and they crave that which they do not have. So, traders are sent to Shora with Valen goods to barter for the wonders of Shora.

But the traders go too far where they rape the Sharers and their families of their virtue and their livelihood. And, when the Sharers rebel by ignoring the traders, the military steps in to take control of the situation; martial law is declared and the first prisoners are taken by the soldiers.

The Sharers respond by ignoring the soldiers. As the Sharers prolong their silence, the soldiers become unglued… agitated. And a wholesale attack on the unarmed women and children of Shora begins.

One lone Sharer, Merwen, has confidence that continued unspeaking will resolve the conflict. All the while, her fellow sharers are dying each day by the hundreds.