The first thing I notice about this book is that it's compulsively readable. I made it through the biography's 463 pages in about a day, with breaks for such things as revising two short stories and occasional meals. Also a little guitar practice.
So yes, excellently written, authoritative, and a thoroughly humane and considered biography which nevertheless resists the urge to become a hagiography, or, in fact, to judge its central character at all. Even to a reader who goes in knowing the ending, this is an evocative, suspenseful book, which does electric justice to its subject.
This was also interesting to me because, of course, I have a personal stake in it. Without James Tiptree, Jr., without Joanna Russ and Suzy McKee Charnas and Suzette Hayden Elgin and Ursula Le Guin and Joy Chant and Octavia Butler and Jo Clayton and so on, I would not be the writer I am, or have the career I have, or be able to tackle the subject matter I do--or if I did, it would be marginalized, not out there at airports in mass-market paperbacks. And one of the things this book does very well, in its interstices, by indirection, is talk about how that sea-change came about.* And how some of it happened because of this enchanting trickster figure, whose legacy will, I suspect will be haunting SF writers for a long time to come.****
(Double Life Double Feature #2, Dominic Green's The Double Life of Doctor Lopez, to follow soonest. But first I have to read it.)
*We're still doing that work, of course. But considering I just saw a review of Undertow that was modestly disappointed that the science in it wasn't hard enough to meet my usual standard,** and nowhere in it does it suggest that this failure is because of my girl cooties, today I am disposed to think we're getting somewhere.*** Besides, I'm kindly disposed toward any reviewer who calls me "dauntless." It makes me feel as if I could run off to Africa and chart the uncharted wilderness, if there were any left.
**NB: The quantum mechanics in Undertow is absolute bullpucky. As far as we know, it doesn't actually work that way. But given all the mileage other "hard SF" writers have gotten out of magic goo and supertechnological aliens over the years, I don't confess myself too upset about it. And one could always go reread Dragon's Egg or Blindsight if feeling let down.
***(The cold two pages on the multiple worlds hypothesis wasn't enough exposition?! Come on, it's more than Niven gives his evolutionary luck
****Thank you, Tip. I'm sorry you didn't stick around long enough for me to write you crackpot fan letters.