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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.D. 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 Josť 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:

  • Acceptable Break from Reality: The book's twist hinges on Ozagen evolution leading to an Human Alien, something highly unlikely made more so since Ozagen evolution took very different paths early on.
  • Alternate Calendar: 3050 A.D. becomes 550 A.S. for the Haijac Union.
  • Arranged Marriage: Marriages are arranged by the Sturch through their gapts. Citizens can disagree, theoretically.
  • As You Know: It is a tad weird having Fobo explain how the gapt system is structured to Yarrow.
  • Author Tract: Farmer is clearly on the side of Sex Is Good against the puritan Big Brother.
  • Awful Truth: Jeannette thinks that Yarrow would be disgusted if he knew she's not biologically human in the least.
  • Batman in My Basement: Yarrow goes to great lengths to hide Jeanette from both the wogs and his fellows Haijacs.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The wogs' friendly demeanor seems genuine. Just don't forget they exterminated the Ozagen humanoids. And Yarrow can put up quite a fight when cornered.
  • 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.
  • Lost Colony: Wubobpaí, the lost French colony from whence Jeannette's father came.