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Literature / The Lovers

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Hal Yarrow is a lowly joat linguist living in the oppressive Haijac Union, one of the major World powers in 3050 A.C. The Haijac Union is a puritan Theocracy based on a future religion called Serialism, an offshoot of Judeochristian beliefs mixed with a pseudo-scientific temporal theory called Dunnology. Adherence to realist actions is a matter of life and death, as citizens are rated regularly in their morals and those who consistently slip are "sent to H". Yarrow, unfortunately, is prone to unreal thinking, and he's not helped by his wife Marie, a proper, frigid, passive-aggressive Sigmenite who feels forced to rat out every minor unreality to their resident gapt Pornsen, a combination of confessor and political commissar.


Eventually Yarrow's stubborn lack of specialization is his salvation, as he gets recruited for a top secret mission— be the resident linguist for a diplomatic expedition to Ozagen, the first inhabitable world found by the Haijac space program. Ozagen is populated by friendly, highly evolved sentient arthropods whose technological level is comparable to that of the early 20th century, derisively named wogglebugs (wogs for short) by the Haijacs. The expedition, though, is actually a mission of genocide, as the Haijac union plans to kill the whole species using a Synthetic Plague. Wogs would join in extinction the other sentient species they used to share their planet with, a mammalian anthropoid astonishingly similar to humans. It is while exploring some ruins of these man-like aliens that Yarrow meets a mysterious girl, who makes him feel for the first time what his Sturch-appointed wife never did. This and his growing friendship with Fobo, a wog psychologist, sends him into a downward spiral of unreality.


This novel launched the career of Philip José Farmer, won an Hugo in 1953, is often listed as a landmark in Science Fiction... and it pretty much stopped Farmer's professional writing career for the next decade, as it was a shining example of a book ahead of its time that no publisher in The '50s would touch with a ten foot pole (in fact, it wasn't published in book form until 1961). The Lovers is credited with introducing Sex into Science Fiction beyond the Green-Skinned Space Babe, and mixing it with Religion, Politics, Psychology and Pulp, Farmer's favourite subjects.

There's another novel by Farmer sharing the same setting, Day of Timestop (a.k.a. as Timestop or A Woman A Day), but it's not actually a sequel.


The Lovers has shib examples of:

  • Big Brother Is Watching: Anyone can be an uzzite spy. No one is beyond suspicion.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Ozagen is full of these, as arthropods learned a lot of tricks to bypass their size limits.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Haijac plot against the wogs is stopped, Yarrow is free and he's a dad... but Jeannette is dead.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: The lalithas reproductive cycle is... convoluted.
  • Body Horror: Lalithas pregnancy looks like this to humans.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Wogs have this as a vestigial defense mechanism that is triggered by stress.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The gapt system, perfect lie detectors, and religious indoctrination that requires snitching on the slightest unrealities of your co-workers, friends and spouse means that even skipping the mandatory chaste kissing of your wife will become a black mark on your morality records.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Figuratively (all kids are raised as wards of the Sturch).
  • Chekhov's Skill: Yarrow's knowledge of almost-dead French.
  • Chest Burster: Lalitha nymphs.
  • Culturally Religious: Yarrow still clings to some sigmenite customs even after he begins sheltering Jeannette. With tragical results.
  • Culture Clash: The major World Powers of 3050 A.C. go from the dystopian theocracy of the Haijac Union to the telepathic gestalt of the Bantu nation, with the Malaysian and Israeli democratic republics in the middle. And then Yarrow meets the wogs, whose way of thinking is actually quite relatable for 21st century Westerners, but are a completely unreal culture from a Haijac citizen's point of view.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Pornsen's death. The guy was a jerk, but his last moments were terrifying.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Lalithas can live forever, eternally young and pretty, as long as they don't want to have kids.
  • Depopulation Bomb: Used by the Martian colonists in the past to wipe out most of Mankind on Earth, giving rise to the ethnic and political variety of the world of 3050 A.C. The Haijacs decide to borrow the idea to solve the Wog problem.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: A short conversation under the moonlight and Yarrow is out to risk his life for Jeannette.
  • Dystopia: The Haijac Union is an overbearing theocracy.
  • Dystopian Edict: Among many prohibitions and taboos, eating is given the same treatment as sex; people must wear special "eating hats" to cover their mouths and chew silently.
  • Ethical Slut: Jeannette, very much so.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier if French: Jeannette Rastignac is half French.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Corrupted French, though.
  • The Evils of Free Will: Stray from reality (Sigmen's path) too much and you'll be sent to "H" for the crime of hindering the coming of the Timestop, the day Sigmen will return and give every good sigmenite an universe to rule over. Oh, and everything bad that ever happens to you is your fault for straying off the real path.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Gapt (Guardian Angel Pro-Tempore), Haijac (Hawaii Australia Iceland Japan America Caucasus), joat (Jack Of All Trades).
  • Future Slang: Besides the Newspeak additions, American has gotten a few loan words from Polynesian and Semitic languages.
  • Gaia's Lament: At least in the Haijac territories.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Jeannette. In a very broad sense.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Jeannette is am alcoholic.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Given that lalithas die during childbirth and they can avoid pregnancy easily and live forever, every lalitha's mother willingly embraced death to conceive them.
  • Human Aliens: Lalithas are to all the senses human.
  • Insectoid Aliens: Wogs are what could be described as mammal-like arthropods.
  • Interspecies Romance: Jeannette may look human but she's actually a lalitha, a highly evolved arthropod.
  • Mysterious Woman: Finding a member of an humanoid species from another planet that you've been previously told was extinct would be surprising enough, but when said member starts speaking in broken French...
  • Newspeak: Sending people to "H", the Sturch (State Church), real and unreal behaviour and of course, loving your neighbour is mandatory. Love might involve sending him/her to "H", though.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Yarrow's tragically misguided attempt to cure Jeannette's alcoholism.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Everything in Ozagen can be safely consumed by humans.
  • Non-Human Lover Reveal: By the time Yarrow finds out Jeannette is completely alien, he is far more devastated by her death.
  • Nubile Savage: Jeannette
  • Nuclear Option: : Only in case the Depopulation Bomb fails...
  • One-Gender Race: Lalithas
  • Out-Gambitted: The wogs aren't that trusting... And can smell lies.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Pornsen wouldn't make a good spy.
  • Planetary Romance: After the action moves to Ozagen, the book adds to the dystopian tale a mysterious Nubile Savage found in the ruins of a mysterious civilization, Bar Brawls in exotic locales, fights with the insidious local fauna and a Lost Colony.
  • Portmanteau: Sturch (State Church), Ozagen (Oz Again).
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: A tenet of Serialism taken very seriously by sigmenites. Ironically, Yarrow's dream at the opening of the novel is the only one that (kind of) comes true.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Lamedians are theoretically above suspicion since they are scientifically proved shib, and so they get away with quirks and attitudes that would get lower citizens sent to "H".
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Fobo stopping Macneff's "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Starfish Language: Siddonite, the language of the biggest wog nation and Fobo's language, is absurdly complicated. Note that Yarrow mentions wogs have a variety of languages, some far easier to learn and speak for an American-speaking human.
  • State Sec: The uzzites.
  • The Symbiote: Lalithas had a mostly parasytical relationship with the Ozagen humanoids that eventually led to their extinction at the hands of the wogs.
  • Synthetic Plague: The payload of the Depopulation Bomb mentioned above.
  • Thanatos Gambit: The Haijacs have even planned for the remote possibility that the wogs manage to get wind of their impending genocide and somehow manage to successfully capture their ship; the Earth maps aboard have the locations of the Haijac Union and their eternal enemies the Israeli republics reversed. Too bad they didn't think of giving the wogs a history of Earth that didn't mention a cheap and effective genocidal bioweapon.
  • Theme Naming: Haijacs love using names of Judeochristian angels.
  • There Are No Therapists: The Haijac Union has no psychologists. If you are a good sigmenite, everything is shib; if not, there's "H". On the other hand, Fobo is a wog shrink.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Yarrow and Fobo become fast friends.
  • Working-Class People Are Morons: By design.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Pornsen's motto, and of sigmenites in general.
  • You Rebel Scum!: Sandalphon Macneff's angry tirade at Yarrow after the Awful Truth comes out, followed by "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Zee Rust: Flying Cars, but no computers... Although Farmer does an Author's Saving Throw in Timestop and mentions sigmenites abhor thinking machines on religious principles.