Thursday, 3 May 2012
The Reproductive System
Author: John Sladek
Year of publication: 1968, Mayflower edition 1970
Back cover blurb: '$u¢¢e$$!? Sign on a wall at Wompler Research Laboratories
Project 32 set in motion an autonomous, self-reproducing mechanism - a 'Reproductive System'. Identical cells were constructed, equipped to repair infracellular breakdowns, convert power from their environment and create new cells. Then suddenly the grey metal boxes began to crawl about the laboratory, feeding, trembling, sliding, multiplying...
The Reproductive System became an army of metal-eating monsters, controlled by a scientific genius hungry for world dominion!'
Quick flick reveals: I very rarely bother acquiring science fiction for the Lost Book Library, for the simple reason that it's magnificently hard for a sci-fi novel of any interest to stay lost. The sci-fi community is just too good at keeping books in circulation in some way or other and for awareness of them to stay constant.
I thought I'd struck pay-dirt with The Reproductive System, however. It had the 'aura' of a lost book when I saw it, and indeed, it pretty much had been lost for several decades. Turns out, however, that it was rescued from obscurity and reprinted a while back. Still, I paid my money, so here it is.
It looks like the sort of sci-fi that I find appealing. An artificial system that gets out of control, and infects humanity like a virus. Predicts the logic of early David Cronenberg, only with boxes instead of vaginal mouths. (Is there an early Cronenberg film with vaginal mouth openings in peoples' flesh? I feel there ought to be.) Anyway, I look forward to reading it.
Random paragraph: 'The cells had multiplied - better than doubled their original number - and had grown to various sizes, ranging from shoe-boxes and attaché cases to steamer trunk proportions. They now repoduced constantly but slowly, in various fashions. One steamer trunk emitted, every five or ten minutes, a pair of tiny boxes the size of 3 x 5 card files. Another box, of extraordinary length, seemed to be slowly sawing itself in half.'