Weeding Womb

An Apollo Asteroid

An Apollo Asteroid by Brian Aldiss. I've said before that I don't like sex in a story unless it has a reason for being there. Here, some of the sex is there simply to explain why there's a big rock stuck into the side of the Moon. But that comes later. Let's start at the beginning, head for the sex in the middle (where sex usually takes place...) and hope that the end sorts itself out and doesn't forget to zip up its jeans.

The beginning looks good, until you realize it's all plot buildup and everyone dies of old age or lack of oxygen. On to the setting's present, the Moon, circa 2200.

The main character (Terry W. Manson - I've never liked people named Terry; they all seem to know exactly how to annoy me) starts having a recurring dream about a lopsided golf ball on an odd beach. He seeks professional help. Good so far.

Then we see the man who is in charge of keeping asteroids and such from crashing into the Moon. We also see his blind wife. What his blind wife doesn't see that we see is his mistress, who is apparently living with them (though the blind wife doesn't know it) and having sex with the man, who is more interested in sex than meteors.

Here's problem one. Yes, the blind wife suspects something, but never manages to actually catch the mistress, even when the mistress is performing various sexual acts with the husband.

So, she's blind and deaf? Even if they avoid certain rather noisy things, as is implied in the text, I'm pretty sure that there'd be the occasional dead-giveaway sound. There's also the implication that the wife is powerless and doesn't want to rock the boat, but I find it hard to believe that any blind person would sit idly by while someone waved a 'little curly pudendum' in front of their dead eyes.

Problem two. The word 'pudendum' is used twice. I know there's no limits on words, but I do think that needing to refer to something first as a 'little curly pudendum' and then as a 'moist and hairy little pudendum' is a little excessive. I wonder if we were saved from it being called a 'neon pink and purple little pudendum that can sing and dance' only by the fact that the pudendum's involvement in the plot ends.

(If you haven't figured out what a 'pudendum' is, go check a dictionary and then come back if you're of age in your place of residence.)

My complaint with the use of 'pudendum' isn't just in the number of times used - obviously, since I've used the word eight times so far - but the fact that it's irrelevant to the plot. It's never actually used, except as a vehicle for a bad joke. The woman it is attached to (now you all know what it is - if not, go to your room) is supposedly a mistress, but other parts of her body get, ahem, 'called into service' instead of this one thing that was made almost specifically for what is going on. So why does the author keep talking about it? I don't know, but it's worrying.

The whole scene in which this part of the human anatomy stars is there for one reason - to state that the husband is too busy having an affair to tell anyone to shoot down an approaching asteroid.

Problem three. Does he never go to his office? Most other people would lose their jobs (or at least, be slightly reprimanded) over that sort of thing, especially when failure to stop in and sign a paper occasionally means a large rock might crush a whole city or two. I don't care if he is a general, he has to answer to someone, and a big rock headed in one's general direction should be enough to make someone at the missile defense base notify the general's bosses, especially since that sort of thing may lead to a nice vacancy for the quick-witted to take advantage of. But, if the author really wanted to pursue the 'general is too busy bonking in front of his blind wife to give the okay to nuke the asteroid' angle, he would have been better off to give the general a passing mention and focus on the missile base, where one could comment on the human condition as a bunch of chain-of-command lackeys quickly pass the buck around, all of whom can't (for lack of power) or won't (for fear of being reprimanded) give the okay to fire off a weapon, even if it means risking being killed when the asteroid hits.

So the asteroid hits and the general, the mistress, and the pudendum all lose their jobs and their passing relevance to the plot.

Now comes the next odd part. The main character (had you forgotten about him? That Terry guy with the funny dream) stops having the dream, stops seeing his psychiatrist, and starts 'seeing' her in a more romantic sense. Now, several things happen.

1) They head out to the asteroid's impact site.

2) They learn they like the same artist.

3) Roslyn, the girlfriend-cum-psychiatrist (Dear God, why did THAT have to be the only damned phrase that I could think of?) suggests they 'stop and have a screw to celebrate'.

4) Their tongues get in a wrestling match. (Don't get me started on that....)

5) The author makes another bad joke, about the road they're driving on beginning to hump.

6) My patience wears thin, and I pray that something not involving sex actually happens in the next (and thankfully last) four pages.

7) Something does. They find, in the asteroid's crater (fortunately it hit nowhere near civilization) a rhomboid box. (Apparently it's from inside the Moon and not the asteroid. Go figure.)

8) Somehow they get in on the research end of it (Terry is the General Secretary of Recreation or something) and find out it opens at 185.333K, revealing a small alien artifact that, in part, blinks on and off.

9) The author (as the first-person Terry) says that Roslyn has the most intelligent breasts (and other things) that he has ever sucked.

10) I silently wish that I was there so I could personally cut them off and stuff them down his throat.

11) Terry and Roslyn realize that the artifact is some sort of extremely old half-alive sort of thing, and try (but fail) to decode the blinking it's doing.

12) Terry talks about having Roslyn's sharp little hips ground into his (are his sharp and little too? He doesn't elaborate). For the sake of all I hold sacred, I wish he (by which I mean both Terry Manson the character and Brian Aldiss the author) would keep his pants on long enough to discuss the Important Alien Artifact That Is Sort Of Alive And Is The Major Reason Why This Is An SF Story.

13) Terry and Roslyn have one of those epiphany things and realize that they have something in common more than a love of art and an overdriven libido. They long for distant horizons.

14) There's a comment on becoming a creature with 'two backs and one mind'.

15) I begin building a Brian Aldiss voodoo doll. You do, of course, understand that there has only been three pages between incident 3) above and here? I've read wonderful books that don't pack this much sexual reference into 400 pages.

16) Terry realizes that the artifact may live on cold and not heat or air. (Never mind the laws of physics that violates, your suspension of disbelief is going to get a major testing soon.)

17) Terry and Roslyn sneak into the lab in the middle of the night. (Is security that bad? Is that horny general in charge of this, too?)

18) They crank the temperature down. The blinking light turns solid (stay with me, one page to go).

19) Somehow, they manage to plug this solid block of information into the Cray supercomputers that run the Moon's major systems. (How do they get ACCESS to this stuff? Terry is some sort of bureaucrat but why does he have access to all these Really Important Things? I can almost believe something that runs on cold, I can almost believe information given substance, but a government cog and his girlfriend sneaking into two supposedly different complexes in one night, once while carrying a large brick of alien material, is pushing it.)

20) Some sort of dimension-ripping gateway opens (similar to the ones that the story uses to explain Earth/Moon travel), and the moon crashes into a large beach. So it looks like a lopsided golf ball, on a large beach.

21) Terry and Roslyn join hands and walk off into the alien sunset.

22) I thank several pantheons of gods that it's over.

Do you really need to ask if I liked this story?

The Archon

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