Saturday, July 18, 2015

Virgin Planet - Poul Anderson

Kathleen slipped off her mantle and let it fall at her feet. She wasn't wearing anything beneath. She stood up straight, throwing her shoulders back and bosom forward. Well she's got to make the most of what she has! thought Barbara. But then, driven by a stubborn realism: What she has isn't so bad. Not really. She's too thin, but nothing haggard about her. She has the muscles to bounce around as readily as anyone.

cover by Emsh - 1959
Okay, I'll give everyone a second to cool off...'cause that's about as hot as anything is going to get on Virgin Planet by Poul Anderson.

Look, I'm not going to rag on this novel...well, maybe I will a little bit, because I came into it without high expectations. But, even giving this novel the benefit of a low hurdle to clear, I still think it's pretty much a stinker. Okay, it's from 1959, and its appeal had to have been for a sea of sci-fi dorks (much like I was once!) still in their teens and waiting for their first slobbery kiss from that cute girl by the Bunsen burner in chem lab...but dang! No wonder "virgin" is prominent in the title!

Briefly, the plot concerns a space adventurer, Davis Bertram, who goes exploring in the Delta Capitis Lupi sector of the galaxy and winds up veering off course to land on...the Virgin Planet! Virgin Planet is an outpost populated only by females. How this happened was 300 years earlier, an expedition of females was on it's way to an outpost somewhere in the another part of the galaxy and got blasted off course by a vortex of some kind to end up on a lone planet in said Delta Capitis Lupi System. Since there are no men around to procreate with, the babes on Atlantis (that's the name they've given their planet) carry on their race by a process of cloning. The cloning is overseen by a caste of "doctor-priestesses" who in effect run the planet. Meanwhile the females of Atlantis wait for the return of man as a kind of race of godlike beings who will rescue them from...well, they're just waiting for man to return, that's all.

So this is the setting that our hapless hero, Davis Bertram, finds himself in when he lands on Atlantis. First he's captured by a warrior babe named Barbara Whitley who takes him back to her village. She doesn't recognize Davis as a man because he doesn't fit the mythical descriptions of "Man" handed down in 300 years of religion. But he makes for an interesting "monster" because he's flat-chested and has a dingus where no one else does. No mention is made by Anderson of any kind of phallic substitute that a planet of women would have developed an interest in...and that's the first of many issues I had with the novel.

Anyway, the captured Davis manages to convince Barbara that maybe he is a man after all. He does this mostly by managing to get her hot and bothered whenever she's around him. Of course, she doesn't understand these weird "urges" she has.The elders aren't convinced though, and are debating having him killed as a "monster" or sent to "the doctors" for further study. Into the mix is Barbara's look-alike cousin Valeria, who is much more tough and warrior-minded than Barbara...and just as hot! Soon, our little gang is off gallivanting around Atlantis having run-ins with other villages and tribes of women. Everyone uses dialog sprinkled with "yipes" and "ulp" and "oof" to the point of distraction. Davis never manages to seal the deal with Barbara or Valeria, or anyone else for that matter, because Poul Anderson is more interested in setting up "Three's Company" type scenarios of confusion and hi-jinx. Eventually, a representative of the "Doctors" shows up and determines that if Davis is the real deal, then their status as rulers of the Virgin Planet is moot. So, Davis Bertram has to go!

And there you are. It could have been a far more interesting novel had Poul Anderson given a few ounces more thought and consideration into the potentials provided by such a setting. Instead, we're treated to a lot of running around and nonsense. This novel is also part of the Psychotechnic League series of novels that are loosely coordinated in Anderson's output. That's fine. This one is plenty for me, thanks.

So, yipes and away...for now!

Beacon edition

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