by Brian W. Aldiss
I told myself I would read the books (magazines, actually) that had accumulated in my latest trip from A-Z, before starting back on “A” again, at least until I had reshelved the last set.
And “A” brings me back around to Aldiss, that morose mofo who seems to see gloomy apocalypse around every corner, and who has revisited H.G. Wells unpleasant tale The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Aldiss can write and plot, though, so the book is a good read, and a reasonable update (for 1981) of Wells’ story, which is considered here to be based on a real person. The update involves a grownup Thalidomide baby who—actually, sort of surprisingly, isn’t working on a way to fix himself, but instead coming up with newer, better teratogenic (mutating fetuses) chemicals.
Eh. It’s pretty unpleasant, much like the original—though at least it lacks the torture of the original—but additionally because of general misanthropy, which seems to be a recurring theme in Aldiss’ books. And the main character is an officious jerk of the first water whose every action brings death and destruction to the island, and yet who feels little to no responsibility for any of it.
The reveals will probably not shock you.
Because its 1980 and Dr. Moreau, you just know bestiality is going to come into this (and it does), but Aldiss goes out of his way to introduce pedophilia as well. I mean, straight-up pedophilia, not even couched in bestiality.
When I see stuff like this in SF, I tend to blame Heinlein, who achieved some kind of mainstream relevance with the aggressive promiscuity in Stranger in a Strange Land—and once you’ve done all the variants of sex with adults possible (including adult children) where’s left to go?
I don’t know if it holds water as a theory, especially here. Aldiss creates a world of mutants, where the mutants are very unsuccessful at having children, generally, and then creates a fully human child from mutant offspring, and has this four-year-old human girl participate enthusiastically in orgies. It’s only a few lines, including a really gross one at the end. (She refers to herself—I’m not making this up—as “sucky Satsu”.)
I really don’t get it. Was there a statement to be made here about Our Hero’s uptight devotion to a despicable system? Was it mere provocation? Is Aldiss a serious perv? He’s still alive. Maybe someone should ask him.
Anyway, like the other Aldiss stuff I’ve read, we have a good story marred by a relentlessly gloomy (and ultimately preachy) outlook and (in this case) sexual weirdness.