Beyond Apollo by Barry N. Malzberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This here is a very unusual novel.
Most of the time I read it, I was equally disgusted and remorseful for the kinds of pathetic sexualizations that came out of the early 70's. Being a New Wave SF novel, thoroughly in league with the heyday's literary works of "genius" in that the complicated concerns of mainstream knocked heads with a heavily SFnal landscape, I shouldn't have guessed otherwise. Sexuality was always made so large that they became frankly absurd. And the best novels turned this on its head and gave us Pure Absurdity.
I think Beyond Apollo, which might rightfully be renamed Beyond Venus, is one of those novels.
The fixation on sex is fully intentional every step of the way. It's rife with a lack of self-awareness and hyperawareness, impotence and hyperpotence, guilt and anger with his wife and wanting relations with his male captain, and possibly murder. Multiple murders. In all kinds of ways.
On the surface, it's just a failed expedition to Venus in a two-man capsule and trying to come to terms with being the only survivor.
Things get REALLY weird like an LSD trip when the MC tells us he will write the story as a novel, starts mixing his identities, gets super fixated on sex, aliens living on Venus, his multiple failures and rationalizations, his horrible marriage, and even the possibility that all of outer space is just a story we just made up. That timelines are like revisions in the story. That the universe is nothing more than a meta-fiction. That time travel, the re-ordering of the Solar-System, and a sense that everything is as malleable as virtual reality is a major question... or that, indeed, the narrator is BUGSHIT INSANE.
Actually... the whole novel is kinda brilliant. If not always consistently great, it is nonetheless brilliant. I'm willing to hate it a little while appreciating just how it always keeps us teetering on the edge of full collapse. :) Is this a novel about a man who goes into total mental fugue after a bad breakup with his wife? Or could he have been significantly f***ed with by the Venusians?
Who knows? :) Either way, it's pretty damn great. I love to hate it a little, too. :) Or a lot. But damn... PROPS.
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