Many books compounded into one: this is why this work is so characteristic, and for this, and for its fragmentary style, is in the end less loved than others (as the one we are going to mention shortly).
Evidently it is the story of Janet, Jeannine, Joanna and then Jael: women from parallel Earths, come together for a very specific reason.
There is much good sci-fi in it: Whileaway, the Utopian Earth where only women live and multiplicate, would deserve a Nebula Prize in itself, and can be compared to the Dispossessed.
Then there is the dystopian Earth of Jael, where “war of the sexes” is not a metaphor at all: as cruel a description of sexual alienation as any story by Delany.
Then an original theory about time travel: which would solve paradoxes, etc.
But there is much more: continuously shifting points of view (the story is in first person: but the narrating “I” may switch among the J’s at any moment during a chapter, with no forewarning), feminist peroration, radical leftist opinions (in Jeannine’s Earth, GreatDepression lingers on.. but better this, than having to fight a World War to overcome it!), stream-of-consciousness evocation of a lesbian coming out (yes, let us not forget Laura Rose: not one of the J’s, but still an important character). And in the end, the author takes leave from its work, as Petrarca did with his most renowned “canzone”; a testament to the width of Russ’s horizons.