The Book of Joan has the same unflinching quality as earlier works by Josephine Saxton, Doris Lessing, Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin and J. G. Ballard. Yet it’s also radically new, full of maniacal invention and page-turning momentum ... But while Herbert’s writing, especially in the later Dune books, was marked by an airless abstraction, Yuknavitch’s prose is passionate and lyrical, very much in the moment. Fusing grand themes and the visceral details of daily life, she offers a revisionist corrective that shows the influence of writers like Clarice Lispector and Angela Carter. Like Carter, Yuknavitch writes about the body with an easy intimacy ... a rich, heady concoction, rippling with provocative ideas. There is nothing in The Book of Joan that is not a great gift to Yuknavitch’s readers, if only they are ready to receive it.
One of the pleasures of The Book of Joan is its take-no-prisoners disregard for genre boundaries. Its searing fusion of literary fiction and reimagined history and science-fiction thriller and eco-fantasy make it a kind of sister text to Jeff VanderMeer's ineffable Southern Reach trilogy. Yuknavitch is a bold and ecstatic writer, wallowing in sex and filth and decay and violence and nature and love with equal relish ... The effect is dizzying and, at times, disorienting, but there is always a vibrant forward motion to the text, and a ferocious, unmistakable perspective: Even in the wreckage of a post-human nightmare, humanity never really changes.
This book covers a lot of ground (and dirt) with varying degrees of narrative and conceptual success, but to detail which parts work and which don’t risks spoiling a story that can be riveting if difficult to piece together from its strands of sky and smears of blood and mud ... I think the book is trying to wed hard-nosed materialism with bodily celebration and recuperation of the sentimental. It would be impressive if it pulled it off, but I’m not sure it does ... If the book stumbles on the intersection of 'difference' feminism, gender theory, and trans issues, that hardly makes it less relevant to conflicts arising in women’s resistance movements today.