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wealhtheow

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The Theory of the Leisure Class (Modern Library Classics)
Thorstein Veblen, Alan Wolfe
The Lovers - Philip Jose Farmer Hal Yarrow is a linguist sent to the newly discovered planet Ozgan, where another sentient species lives. He has led a repressed and unhappy life. But on Ozgan, he realizes that his tyranical religion and way of life are illogical, and breaks free to find love amongst the natives.

The writing is lazy. There are countless instances of Farmer forgetting what came mere pages ago. For example, on the first page, Yarrow tells a fellow passanger what a "joat" (jack-of-all-trades) is. Not five pages later, the book tells us what a joat is--using the exact same explanation, almost verbatim! Or, on page 147, the book tells us "[Yarrow] had had no intention of saying he loved her. He'd never told any woman he loved her, not even Mary. Nor had any woman ever told him." What pathos--except that a hundred pages earlier, Yarrow was whining that Mary constantly told him that she loved him, and demanding he tell her that he loved her. It took me all of three seconds to find textual evidence: page 14, during a fight with Mary, "'But I do love you,' [Yarrow] said for what seemed like the thousandth time since they had married." C'mon, Farmer! The book is only 219 pages long--surely it wouldn't have killed him to keep his main character's motivations straight!

Another thing that killed me was the language. Yarrow is a linguist, on the planet to learn the natives' languages. And so initially, we get whole paragraphs like this: "Cnosider the tense system. Instead of inflecting a verb or using an unattached particle to indicate the past or future, Siddo used an entirely different word. Thus, the masculine animate infinitive dabhumaksanigalu'ahai, meaning to live, was, in the perfect tense, ksu'u'peli'afo, and, in the future, mai'teipa. the same use of an entirely different word applied for all the other tenses. Plus the fact that Siddo not only had the normal (to Earthmen) three genders of masculine, feminine, and neuter, but the two extra of inanimate and spiritual..." Except as soon as he's on the planet, everyone communicates without problem! There are no mistranslations, or problems of a concept not existing in one language. No one needs Yarrow's help translating anything--they all just know each other's language. And the aliens and humans not only speak each others' languages with colloquial ease, but the aliens use expressions like "in the arms of Morpheus" to say they're going to bed. After only a few months of knowing humanity? I really doubt it!

The alien planet is hardly alien--they have apartments, automobiles, bars that are just like 20th century Earth bars. Farmer put no effort into the world building at all! Nor did he put much effort into the science of his science-fiction. Despite pages upon pages of infodumps, all of it is just completely made-up and arbitrary. His infodumps are particularly impressively out of place--in a single scene Yarrow is discovered to be a heretic, told he's going to be tortured and killed, then watches as all the humans on the planet are killed, then told his love Jeanette is actually a parasitic insect, and then told that she's dying because she's bearing his young. Then there's a 15 page monologue by Fobo about how Jeanette's biology works (all of which is totally nonsensical), to which Yarrow's response is simply to ask what would happen if she had multiple lovers. Then they talk about what would biologically happen when her kind is gang-raped! WTF? That's the worst example, but far from the only one.

All that said, the idea underpinning the novel-- that of a parastic race that survives by latching on to humans and making them love them isn't terrible, though the sexism (of so noticably the kind popular in the 20th century Western Europe&America) in the assumptions of how it works kinda ruins it a little. And Yarrow's emotional life is well written; Farmer is on firm ground there. But when it comes to plot, or sf elements, it's all very unstable and poorly done.