A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski is an important work of SF that won the 1987 Campbell award. It’s an impressive work of biological science fiction and a feminist, pacifist novel of interplanetary conflict in which the all-female inhabitants of the water world, Shora, who call themselves the Sharers, engage in acts of nonviolent resistance that would be very familiar to those who’ve read their Gene Sharp, as Slonczewski herself has. It’s also explicitly a response, the author says, to works like Herbert’s Dune and Le Guin’s Word for World Is Forest: a water world instead of a desert, non-violence instead of violence, pacifists remaining pacifists, and prevailing.
The Sharers are “lifeshapers” — masters of bioscience and genetic engineering. This draws the attention of the rulers of the nearby planet, Valedon, who move to exploit their planet and resources. Meanwhile, Sharers from the water world, Shora, visit the nearby world Valedon and take a young male, Spinel, back to learn their ways. Spinel becomes our window into the Sharers’ world, but he is by no means the only viewpoint character. If anything, A Door into Ocean, while vast in scope, is at the same time too limited; the story is a bit too pregnant for all its possibilities. There are multivolume series with less ambition.