rushthatspeaks: (bestest authorservice)
Recommended by / lent to me by Thrud's father. I should have remembered maybe that the last book he lent me was Samuel R. Delany's Hogg*.

So.

There is this short story by Joanna Russ called 'The Clichés from Outer Space', in which she gives an example of the Weird Ways Of Getting Pregnant plotline. Here is the beginning of that example:

"Eegh! Argh! Argh! Eegh!" cried Sheila Sue Hateman in uncontrollable ecstasy as the giant alien male orchid arched over her, pollinating her every orifice. She-- yes, she-- she, Sheila Sue Hateman, who had always been frigid, nasty, and unresponsive! She remembered how at parties she had avoided men who were attracted by her bee-stung, pouting, red mouth, long, honey-colored hair, luscious behind and proud, up-thrusting breasts (they were a nuisance, those breasts, they sometimes got so proud and thrust up so far that they knocked her in the chin. She always pushed them down again). How she hated and avoided men! ...But this was different.


I swear to God until I sat down with The Pollinators of Eden I didn't know she was talking about a specific book. That paragraph serves as a far, far better review than I am personally capable of; I can only bow to the master. Russ has even gotten the tone of the novel right. And the prose style.

EVERY SINGLE WORD OF THAT HAPPENS except her breasts hitting her in the chin, which only happens figuratively, in that her breasts are what the Senate Judiciary Committee chooses to find memorable about her.

Oh, and her name is actually Freda. Not that that matters.

The thing is... I didn't hate this book. At first, I was confused, in that way where nothing that was going on made any sense because it was all based on cultural assumptions that have vanished into the mists of the aether (publication date 1969, extrapolation of the fictional 2200s, heavily pun-based language centered around stuff that must have been current at publication date, might as well have been written in Indo-European except I have more theoretical background on that). Then I was incredulous, in that way where you see what a person is getting at but cannot quite believe that they mean it, because seriously.

THEN THERE WAS GIANT ORCHID TENTACLE PORN and after that I was just laughing too hard to find any of it anything other than delightful.

I would like to apologize in advance for lapsing randomly into capital letters for the rest of this review.

People. She gives birth to a seedpod. SHE GIVES BIRTH TO A SEEDPOD. While she's in the mental institution she's been clapped in for plant-related nymphomania. Her doctor hates her because she is AN UNWED MOTHER despite the fact that this is THE YEAR 2230-SOMETHING and CASUAL SEX IS TOTES ACCEPTABLE but THERE ARE LIMITS, and he is a total dick to her throughout her pregnancy, and then she gives birth TO THE SEEDPOD which HAS BLOND HAIR because her HUSBAND HAD SEX WITH THE FEMALE ORCHID AND THERE WAS CROSS-POLLINATION. And then after the delivery the doctor is all 'I am so sorry you gave birth to this whatever it is, should we burn it?' and she is all 'NO IT IS BEAUTIFUL I HEAR A HEARTBEAT WE MUST PLANT IT' and then he has a MYSTICAL CONVERSION BECAUSE OF THE DEPTHS OF HER MATERNAL LOVE and SEES HER AS THE DIVINE SPIRIT OF THE EARTH MOTHER and is consequently willing to break her out of the mental institution and send her back to the alien space orchids. After having sex with her a lot.

At this point I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt, and it had become obvious that about the last fifty pages of this book are one of the great stupid dénouements in the history of fiction, the kind of thing that elevates a book to legendary status, the kind of thing that made it entirely worth the previous hundred and fifty pages of administrative one-uppery, bureaucratic fuckery, homicidal ultrasonic space tulips (HOMICIDAL ULTRASONIC SPACE TULIPS which, I would like to point out, CALL HER THEIR MOTHER) and Freudianism. My affection for this book knows, I tell you, no bounds. I mean, after the thing with the space orchid, her husband, who has been standing there nodding approvingly the whole time (he's been seeing the female orchid for a while now) informs her that that was very pretty AND COMPARES HER TO LEDA AND THE SWAN. How can you not love that? I would say they should film this and show it every Christmas, but I think I saw that hentai once.

In conclusion: glorious beyond the wildest dreams of a reader who walked into it cold. I knew nothing about this going in except that Thrud's dad sent it and I didn't read the flap. At about page fifty I couldn't figure out why he had. At about page one hundred I was starting to wonder if I'd done something to offend him. As it turned out... I must write him a thank-you note. And see if he's aware of the Joanna Russ story.

* He wanted someone to discuss its philosophical themes with. If any of you have actually managed to finish reading it, he is still in need of someone for this purpose, and I can put you guys in touch; I understand that he is sad about not having anyone with whom he can talk about the book, but it is not merely a case of not my kink, it is a case of I find this kink actively boring to read about. In Thrud's dad's case, it is, and I guarantee this absolutely, a case of 'I didn't notice the kink because I was thinking about the metaphysics'.

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