This cheeky little novel reads like a postcard from Weldon gone on holiday, frolicking with fiction, dashing off diatribes on everything from cosmology to sex. It's a short story plumped up (by the author of The Heart of the Country, 1988, etc.) to mixed effect. In it Weldon studies 42-year-old Sandra Harris Sorensen, known to her TV fans as "Starlady Sandra," a famous astronomer who discovered the planet Athena. As the novel opens, she's run, with nothing but a checkbook and spare pair of jeans, from her boring husband, Matthew (a missionary-position man), to accompany Mad Jack Stubbs, leader of the Citronella Jumpers, a New Orleans Revival band, on a gig in the South of France. "Say I was desperate, if you like, latched on to Mad Jack the trumpeter. . .as if he were a tree trunk and I falling over a cliff," she explains. She's a minx of a gel, who pauses between episodes in the sack with Jack to tell of her insane mother and her father, the mad Nazi geneticist Oscar von Stirpit, to ponder the ways of women, men, and the stars, and to vow that with genes like hers, childbearing is out of the question. But when she becomes pregnant, she decides to leave lusty Jack to his sniveling wife, and to have her child--after all, as she says, "What's the point: the species will never be perfected, were perfection in mind, which of course it isn't, just endless workable forms." A romp that bounces by myriad interesting ideas before ultimately abandoning them. For here, Weldon's far too pleased with her own agile voice to lock herself in battle with anything serious.