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Andrea K Höst

Australian writer of science fiction and fantasy.
Andra - Louise Lawrence "Andra" was originally published in 1971, and adapted as an 8 part TV series in Australia in 1976. The book was apparently intended as mainstream SF, not YA SF, though I suspect for today's readers its ideal audience would be early teens.The voice of the story is almost naive, and the science shaky, with several side-trips into what might be classed as magic realism. I read the book several times when I was a teen, and remembered it as a bittersweet tale, engrossing without being a book that one loves absolutely.On an adult reading, it is a very strange tale. A young, below-average intelligence woman receives a head injury in a post-nuclear world where life is rigidly controlled, stratified by IQ, homogenised so that everyone is blue-eyed, blonde-haired, and oh so obedient. At 60, all but the high tier IQ's are euthanised, as are all people with any disability, including blindness. The highest of high IQ's have their brains transplanted into younger bodies, and there is at least one character who is 300 years old. All this is accepted with little sign of unrest, as the whole of society is rigidly brainwashed from birth, and anyone who shows too much resistance is mind-wiped into compliance.Andra, the region of her sight damaged, becomes the subject of an experimental operation - a slice of a brain in storage is spliced into hers - and if the operation does not succeed in restoring her sight she will die even if she survives. The section of brain which is transplanted is from a high-IQ boy who died in 1987 (before the nuclear war and a rather unlikely 2000 years before).Surviving the operation, Andra immediately begins exhibiting a much higher level of intelligence. Her eyes turn brown. Her hair turns black. And she becomes a Manic Pixie Dream Girl - or at least a magical pixie girl, a catalyst character, unknowable and adored, changing the world about her. She actually reminded me of a character I often encounter in older novels - a kind of wilful Latin beauty who simply doesn't seem to understand the ordinary rules of society and flouts them at every turn, and yet is so beautiful or different that the response is an immense amount of doting and indulgence - at least from men.The story is told almost entirely from the viewpoint of men. There's a couple of women who have a few sentences of speaking, but no significant role. This is all about Andra's impact on the people of a circumscribed world, as shown primarily from the viewpoint of men. Old men. Young men. Bad men. Good men. Men who dote on Andra immediately. Men whose world is opened to new vistas by Andra. Men who hate her for her defiance, for her insolence, for her shameless long, silky, oh-so-touchable hair.That last makes it sound sexual, but this is a very sexless book, even with a sixteen year-old house-sharing with two older teens for part of the story. There's no indication that anyone is even interested in doing anything but sitting at Andra's feet, listening to her.I enjoyed re-reading this book, but doubt I would have liked it originally if I hadn't been in my early teens when I first read it. Andra comes across as child-like and (at least socially) idiotic, for all her charm. It's a quixotic, somewhat illogical story about the desire for freedom and invokes a piquant sense of longing, and loss. But I doubt it would work at all for today's audience.