The Reproductive System (Gollancz Collectors Edition) Paperback – 20 Jul 2000
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'Superb entertainment. It is full of invention, wit and subtly sad comedy... Will surely become a classic' The Sunday Times
About the Author
John Sladek (1937 - 2000)
John Sladek was born in Iowa in 1937 but moved to the UK in 1966, where he became involved with the British New Wave movement, centred on Michael Moorcock's groundbreaking New Worlds magazine. Sladek began writing SF with 'The Happy Breed', which appeared in Harlan Ellison's seminal anthology Dangerous Visions in 1967, and is now recognized as one of SF's most brilliant satirists. His novels and short story collections include The Muller Fokker Effect, Roderick and Tik Tok, for which he won a BSFA Award. He returned to the United States in 1986, and died there in March 2000.
Top Customer Reviews
A typical Sladek array of gargoyles populate the story: mad scientist Toto Smilax, homicidal CIA spook B Suggs, crusading newspaper editor Barthemo Beele (who’d cover his own wife’s infidelities for the sake of a story), and a gaggle of senior military knuckle-draggers with names like Grawk, Ickers and Nematode.
The book starts very entertainingly with the satire coming thick and fast, but it get bogged down when the reproductive system swings into action. Without the SF elements, we might have had a Dr Strangelove-like black comedy and a more consistently funny book. As it is, the whole doesn’t quite equal the sum of its parts.
In an effort to save their ailing doll-manufacturing business, the Wompler family apply to the government for a research grant, and very shortly find their research headed by the dysfunctional trio of Professor Toto Smilax and Kurt and Karl, the Frankenstein brothers. The aim of Project 32 is to create self-reproducing mechanisms which may or not ultimately have military applications.
Prototypes in the form of small mobile grey boxes are produced, and on being fed metal, proceed to construct others, each time improving on the original design.
Inevitably, some of the boxes escape and 'The Reproductive System' as Smilax terms it, begins to spread across America.
Sladek is fond of using a large cast of characters, and his novels resemble an intricate and complex farce, in that inevitably seemingly unrelated characters turn out to have some connection with each other, such as Mary, whose relationships with men seem to connect several of the characters leading to bizarre but oddly logical consequences.
Sladek's plotting is faultless, and in a brilliant scene - in which various people (for various reasons) are wandering around Marrakesch in astronaut suits - both the Russian and American agents end up in the rocket while the French astronaut is left on the ground. As the hijack of the rocket threatens to cause a major international incident, both agents are ordered to kill themselves in order that the blame for the hijack can be laid at the door of the country of the survivor.Read more ›
The ideas are good, the jokes are mostly funny and the writing speaks out of the side of its mouth in that "seen it all" sixties fashion that attempts to catch the note of Kurt Vonnegut and just falls short. Where the book loses a star is in its lack of interest in making us feel that any of its characters are alive in any way; Sladek is only interested in them insofar as he can pin funny-clever names on them and use them to carry the plot to its next set-piece.
When I read this, I thought it was one of the best and funniest books I'd ever read. Now, I was only 16, and it was a long time ago, but I don't think my tastes have changed so much. The book does indeed heavily use unlikely coincidences as a comic device, and I think it does so very successfully. It's certainly not 'serious' science fiction, but that makes it all the more unique and precious.
In saying that there are some mediocre books - and i am afraid this is one of them. The theme itself is quite origional. [perhaps not so much now than it was when 1st written]. the reproductive system refers to an experiment gone wrong, and these machines [project 32] keep on reproducing - wasting nothing - using everything they come across to mend themselves and expand.
now the people behind this narrative - for the most part - are well defined and 'human'. but as the story goes along things become far too 'coincidental' for example. Mr A and Mrs A are in seperate countries and Mr X is going to kill Mr A and whilst hunting him down stumbles along Mrs Y whom he falls for but Mrs Y wants Mr A and so on... all becomes a little... frustrating.
all in all a good read - just one of the less exciting of the series
[my fave so far is Wasp by Eric Frank Russel