fifteen

“Myth is more instructive than history, Evelyn: Mother proposes to reactivate the pathogenesis archetype, utilising a new formula. She’s going to castrate you, Evelyn, and then excavate what we call the ‘fructifying female space’ inside you and make you a perfect specimen of womanhood. Then, as soon as you are ready, she’s going to impregnate you with your own sperm, which I collected from you after you copulated with her and took away to store in the deep freeze.”

This is from page 68 of the novel and pretty much tells you territory we are in here…and it’s brilliant. Bonkers. Deranged. Utterly brilliant. Dystopian future. Blade Runner, where the blade is the instrument of non-voluntary gender realignment surgery. American society pretty much destroyed by some catastrophe…Evelyn, soon to become Eve, escapes a violent, rat-filled New York and the clutches of a 17 year old hooker and flees to the badlands and later the desert, where even stranger and more transgressive futures await him/her.

‘Mother’ is some deranged female fertility god figure to a (literally) underground female society trying to to without (and do away with) men…then onto the desert farm run by Zero the one-legged, one-eyed poet, who rarely speaks in language – preferring animalistic grunting (…there is an in joke for poetic types here, but you’ll need to write it yourself) – where he keeps a harem of 7 younger, dungaree wearing women, one for each day of the week, in thrall to his self mythologising and to his ‘sacred juices’…Eve make 8 and therein lies a problem.

Throughout Evelyn/Eve’s story they have hung dreams on the nostalgic image of Tristessa, a female movie star from the silent era. Her monochrome, glacial beauty and enigmatic silence represent some lost ideal for the young Evelyn, further enhanced by her Garbo-sequence retirement into seclusion. Tristessa is also an image that haunts Zero. He leads his gang in a raid on the desert compound where he rightly believes she has been holed up for 40years, believing that dispatching her will restore his virility. The climactic raid is violent, abusive, destructive and shifts the ground under the feet of everyone once more. This novel is one of the early fore runners in dealing with gender fluidity. Hard to say much more without spoiling it.

Evelyn/Eve/Eva escapes again in a stolen jeep, crashing along deserted roads, stopping at abandoned gas stations scattered with the rotting bodies of murdered families, eventually encountering sober armies of teenage boys, clad in black, religiously observant and fanatically violent. Before the final claustrophobic scenes which see Eve crawling back into the increasingly fleshy caves of Mother (Earth?).

The writing is florid, baroque and earthy. It is certainly of its age, lots of hippy come-down, cosmology and Age of Aquarius (the sunset of the age of Aquarius?) nonsense rolling around. But it’s good fun and mad as hell.

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