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.
The ideas in this book are spine-tinglingly good. Yuknavitch conjures a dystopia that feels at once outlandish and resonantly true. This is what great speculative fiction is supposed to do, offer catharsis for our anxieties about the future; anticipate and indulge our deepest fears about technology, and the surveillance state, and censorship, and climate change ... Yuknavitch is far from the only writer to tap into Joan of Arc’s soldier mythos in response to current events...But [her] re-telling stands out as uniquely vivid and electrifying ... the idea of living the next four years without stories like The Book of Joan would be a lot more boring, and painful. On the question of whether Yuknavitch will join the ranks of George Orwell and Margaret Atwood as an important voice in speculative fiction: I cast my vote for yes.
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.