Saturday 28 January 2012

Book Review: Colin Greenland's 'Mother Of Plenty'

Book Review of:
(Voyager ISBN 0-00-649907-4 £5.99, 1998)

‘My name is Plenty, Plenty O’Toole’ says the girl in the Bond movie. ‘Named after your Father perhaps?’ muses 007 suavely. Well – actually, no, this Plenty is an organic Starship resembling ‘the shell of a tortoise, the bun of a hamburger, or a human brain.’ A giant ship built – or perhaps spun from insect spittle, by the alien Frasque. And ‘giant’ as in WOW! It’s directly related to the one used by Channel 5’s bizarre ‘Lexx’ crew, but not quite, and it’s inhabited by a bewildering array of part-comic part-malevolent otherworldly grotesques. Luna-born bargee Tabitha Jute encounters Plenty adrift in Earth orbit, activates it by jacking her modem bio-chip Buddy ‘persona’ Alice Liddel into its stardrive, and thereby crashes the ‘probability fault’ that is hyper-space. ‘Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know’ quips Brother Melodious, quoting Grace Slick, and…

The trouble with trilogies is that they come in three parts. Except ‘Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’, which is famously a trilogy in four parts. Or Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ trilogy – seven volumes and still on-going despite its creator’s timely death. And much of the rich and beautiful chaos of Jute’s idiosyncratic cosmology got partially decoded in Colin Greenland’s first two Plenty volumes (‘Take Back Plenty’ and ‘Seasons Of Plenty’). By book three the Xtasy Crew, the Horde of the Havok Khan (dreadlocked battlebikers), a ‘codehead’ Datapunk called Jone, Iogo the Thrant, Xtasca the rogue cherub, and the Meat Miners who quarry the great purple Star Beast, have all fetched up unexpectedly in the bloated double-sunned Capella star system. And among the on-board menagerie are two main races. The Frasque, who are twiggy six-legged hydrangeas. And the brain parasite Capellans themselves, the self-styled ‘most advanced race in the Galaxy’ who resemble ‘giant blue caterpillars who squat uninvited in people’s heads’. They are ‘dead humans infested by parasite worms. Dead meat that walks and speaks and enforces its speaking with magic rings. It is vile’. ‘You only want us for our bodies’ protests the Priestess Queen of the Seraphim in coy double-entendre. ‘They are the best bodies’ replies Brother Melodious Metz whose blue suede boots float 15 clear centimetres above the ground, and who has a ‘grotesquely enlarged cranium’ due to his Capellan inside-kick. ‘Fucking Worm-Head’ says Jute. But which race predominates? Which one has highjacked Plenty forty-light years and a ‘long bad dream’ from its original intended jump to Proxima Centauri, and why? What of the Seraphim, those strange techno-deities, architects of Autoplastic Metamorphosis and decadent post-human supremacists? What will Grant Nothing do with his new clone-body grown for his severed head? And what happens when the Star Beast wakes?

Colin Greenland’s first book, ‘The Entropy Exhibition’ (1983) was an academic dissertation on New Wave SF, which would infer a preoccupation with innovation, radical prose experiments, and gimmicked-up conceptual games. Not so. Tabitha Jute might be Tank Girl by other means, the predominantly female characters menstruate and have lesbian sex, and at times it’s a gloriously lavish Girl Power Hitchhikers Guide, but the Plenty trilogy has its roots sunk directly into Space Opera’s wide-screen extravaganza, complete with the future-shock absorbers of humour. This is a brightly coloured ‘fractel porridge’ graphic novel of a novel, extravagantly and playfully absurd, sketched in with luminous crayola. ‘Plenty’s garish imagery and decorous dialogue meticulously interact at a leisurely pace in which eyes glisten ‘like dark moist eggs’, cables dangle ‘like mating snakes’, ‘scattered blood clashes unpleasantly with the pink and orange decor’, and Boaz speaks like ‘concrete setting’, but it’s seen from multiply-specied perspectives, so it holds fascination through each gradual procession of incidents. Ideas go off like novas more brilliant than exploding suns. Brethren and Sistren, as Marco Metz would say, in the name of the Lord Elvis Almighty, this is a fiction of fabulously delineated character-sketched weirdness in meticulously skewed mindscapes.

Published in:
‘GIG CENTRAL Vol.6 No.4: Dec’ (UK - Dec 1998)
‘THE ZONE no.7’ (UK - Jan 1999)

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