Openers: "Of course, if they had had any sense they'd have routed us via Cairo," the engineer from Birmingham said.
This is the miracle of our age: that one may be borne swiftly and smoothly along in winged luxury, constantly fed and reassured, while underneath one unrolls the great viridian mat of Central Africa, that territory to be flown over but never conquered, whose mysteries deepen as the rest of the world grows hallower, whose beasts and peoples breathe a secret, greener air, whose prodigality seems to make of the continent a very planet, subject to its laws and psychologies -- this, I say, is the miracle, that we may be borne over all this superbity to the tune of turbo-props and notice nothing of it because of the vacuous gossip of an engineer from Birmingham.
"I mean, Dakar just doesn't compare with Cairo in any wat," he added, "as regards to amenities or anything else."
-- Brian Aldiss, The Male Response (1961)
Thus begins a bitingly, somewhat bawdy novel exploring the White Man's Burden, the Black Man's Burden, palace intrigue, the opposition of tradition versus progress, and, of course, sex.
Soames Noyes is a manager for Unilateral Company, a leading British producer of computers. The time is 1970, just a short hop forward from when the novel was written. Prince Deal Limpo Lander, son of the king and president of the Republic of Goya -- a flyspeck African country few had heard of -- has ordered a computer a part of a scheme of his father's to modernize his country. Having no idea of what the computer would be used for (or how to use it, for that matter), the prince picks the most modern, expensive computer -- the Apostle Mk II -- for Goya. His only requirement is that the computer be painted red instead of the normal gray of the computer. So Soames is off to Goya with three Unilateral engineers and the safely packed, albeit disassembled, Apostle Mk II in the plane's cargo hold, headed to Goya's capital of Umbalathorp.
The plane crashes and Soames, one engineer, and the prince are the only survivors. The computer was not damaged. Soames finds there are few white people in Goya: two small families of rival traders and an English couple and their daughter who are ostracized for their sexual preferences. The king and president (he claims both titles) is wily, politically astute man named M'Grassi Landor. Because he is both king and president, he is allowed to have two families -- one for the king and one for the president. M'Grassi's political rival is Dumayami, a witch doctor who opposes the new computer, and who predicts that Soames will never leave Goya. There is also a Chinese family living in the palace, the father being the laundryman for the palace as well as being an accomplished spy. Just about everyone Soames meets (save for the witch doctor) has a daughter that wants to seduce Soames as a possible way to get away from Goya, which is a country with a majority of poor people and a smattering of the rich.
Soames is a duck out of water here. A good part of the book centers on his efforts to make sense of the place, its people, its mores, and its politics. The remaining Unilateral engineer is killed shortly after he managed to get the computer assembled and running. Soames discovers a plot to steal all the computer spare parts in order to resell them to the government. Soames tries to recover the parts, only to be foiled by a runaway train. (The train was originally designed to run to a neighboring village whose inhabitants had all died from plague before the railway could be completed.) Soames also saves the life of Prince Deal and finds himself being elected President of Goya in another politically savvy move by M;Grassi. Soames is unaware of a provision in the country's constitution that makes all presidents-elect to publicly choose a First Lady and to publically copulate with her before being sworn in. This goes against his English sense of reserve (although every other Englisher in the book has no moral scruples).
The Male Response is a sly, fast read from one of England's great authors. Aldiss was never one to restrain himself as far as subject matter, genre, or imagination. Like his colleague J. G. Ballard, Aldiss is sui generis, always moving to new, challenging, and literate frontiers. Here, Aldiss is at his satiric best.
Galaxy Science Fiction Novels: Aldiss's The Male Response was the 45th (out of 46) book published as a Galaxy Science Fiction Novel. The line was started by H. L. Gold in 1950 as an adjunct to his Galaxy Science Fiction, magazine. The books were presented in a paperback digest format and were sometimes abridge for space. Most of the authors were among the top science fiction writers of the time. In 1959 the series was sold to Beacon Books, which changed the format to a regular paperback size, and promoted them as sex-ed up novels more fitting for their main line of soft-core novels. Titles were often changed and the stories themself edited (or added to) to increase the sex content. The first edition of The Male Response was one such book. I read the House of Stratus 2001 edition and have not compared this edition to the original.
Nonetheless, there is some great reading in the 46 books in the series -- realizing, of course, that some of the gratuitous scenes can be laid to the editor and not the author. Here's a list, in order:
- Eric Frank Russell, Sinister Barrier
- Jack Williamson, The Legion of Space
- Arthur C. Clarke, Prelude to Space
- S. Fowler Wright, The Amphibians
- S. Fowler Wright, The World Below
- Raymond F. Jones, The Alien
- Clifford D. Simak, Empire
- Olaf Stapledon, Odd John
- William F. Temple, Four Sided Triangle
- Jay Franklin, Rat Race
- Wilson Tucker, The City in the Sea
- Sam Merwin, Jr., The House of Many Worlds
- "John Taine," Seeds of Life
- Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
- Leslie Mitchell, Three Go Back
- James Blish, The Warriors of Day
- "Lewis Padgett," Well of the Worlds
- Edmond Hamilton, City at World's End
- James Blish, Jack of Eagles
- "Murray Leinster," The Black Galaxy
- Jack Williamson, The Humanoids
- Sam Merwin, Jr., Killer to Come
- "David Reed," Murder in Space
- L. Sprague de Camp, Lest Darkness Fall
- "Murray Leinster," The Last Spaceship
- "Lewis Padgett," Chessboard Planet
- Malcolm Jameson, Tarnished Utopia
- Fritz Leiber, Destiny Times Three
- L. Ron Hubbard, Fear
- Fletcher Pratt, Double Jeopardy
- C. L. Moore, Shambleau
- F. L. Wallace, Address: Centauri
- "Hal Clement," Mission of Gravity
- Manly Wade Wellman, Twice in Time
- Frank Riley & Mark Clifton, The Forever Machine (They'd Rather Be Right)
- Olaf Stapledon, Odd John (reprinted and probably sexed-up)
- Raymond F. Jones, The Deviates (The Secret People)
- George O. Smith, Troubled Star
- Larry M. Harris ("Laurence Janifer") & Randall Garrett, Pagan Passions
- Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet
- Philip Jose Farmer, Flesh
- Sam Merwin, Jr., The Sex War (The White Widows)
- Philip Jose Farmer, A Woman a Day (The Day of Timestop)
- A. E. van Vogt, The Mating Cry (The House That Stood Still)
- Brian Aldiss, The Male Response
- "Cyril Judd", Sin in Space (Outpost Mars by C. M. Kornbluth & Judith Merril)
- Peter Haining, editor, Pulp Fictions. Anthology of twenty hard-boiled stories covering Hardboiled Dicks, Cops and G-Men, and The Hoods. Typical Haining anthology of the familiar, the unfamiliar, and the quirky. Authors include Robert Leslie Bellem, W. R. Burnett, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, James Hadley Chase, Peter Cheney, Carroll John Daly, James Ellroy, Samuel Fuller, David Goodis, Dashiell Hammett, MacKinlay Kantor, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Ross Macdonald, Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Thompson, and Cornell Woolrich. A good line-up and, I'm sure, some pretty good stories.
- An unidentified Florida man called the Hillsborough County sheriff's office after he heard his neighbor shouting, "Shoot! Shoot!" The neighbor was watching Game Three of the Stanley Cup playoffs with two friends and were yelling for the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos to make a goal.
- Port Charlotte Florida Man Sean Metcalfe was charged with domestic battery after he slapped his wife with a piece of pizza when she tried to throw the box away. When [olic arrived she still had grease and tomato sauce on her face. I believe the police charged him with domestic battery because it evidently is not against Florida law to waste a good slice of pizza.
- Two Brits discuss three separate Florida Man episodes, including a ghostly three-some and a desire for hot pockets. Probably NSFW. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tw3eVACJN_o
- As mentioned above, former Trump campaign chairman Brad Pascale was hospitalized after threatening to harm himself. He had barricaded himself in his home and had multiple firearms. What I did not mention was that he lives in Fort Lauderdale. Figures.
- An unnamed Miami, Florida, tow truck driver was arrested Friday night for illegally lifting an Audi with a frightened 17-year-old girl inside, but not before backing up and crashing into the car. Police said the driver told them he was towing a different car, but the incident was caught on video and proved him to be a liar face.
- A Tennessee woman is searching for her mother's cremated remains. She had sent the remains by mail to her sister in Jacksonville not knowing her sister had moved. The post office delivered the remains to the address on the package and the current resident placed the carton outside for carrier pickup but the carton and Mama's ashes went missing. If you are in Florida and happen to spot with a bright red label saying "CREMATED REMAINS," please let Amy Redford of Oldham county, Tennessee know. She is missing her mother.
- Florida Man and waste of protoplasm Governor Ron DeSantis has lifted all Covid-19 restriction for the state. I know I also mentioned this above, but it is such a Florida Man thing to do.
- Drug found to repair nerve cells, giving hope for future MS treatments https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/bexarotene-cancer-drug-found-to-repair-myelin-nerves-in-ms-patients/
- Customer raises a $12,000 tip for his favorite 89-year-old pizza deliveryman https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/89-year-old-pizza-deliveryman-gets-huge-tik-top-tip/
- Tennessee high school students collect 10,000 face masks for those in need https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/tennessee-hs-students-collect-10k-face-masks-for-those-in-need/
- Australian scientist use seaweed as a supplement for cows, potentially reducing methane emission by 90% https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/australian-methane-eliminating-seaweed-supplement-for-cows/
- Rallying after a North Dakota farmer has a heart attack, nhis neighbors teamed together to save his 10,000 acre harvest https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/north-dakota-farmers-heart-attack-neighbors-swoop-in-to-help/
- Five great things we should remember about Ruth Bader Ginsberg (There are far many more than five, but this is a start,) https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/5-great-reasons-to-remember-ruth-bader-ginsburg/