A novel explores extraterrestrial love in a topsy-turvy world.
In her latest book, Pell (Who’s Your Daddy, Baby?, 2012) graduates from romantic satire to sci-fi (with a healthy dose of romantic satire). Amethyst Adele “Addy” McCrory is a lonely, brilliant, brassy ex–TV reporter with a murder rap and an appointment with an electric chair named Old Sparkey. Prior to the gunplay that landed her behind bars, Addy and a hunky lawyer named Sean Michael O’Malibul had shared “heart-pumping lust, combined with mind-melding intellect.” But all is not right in their world in 2503 “on a planet called Malaprop, strikingly similar to a planet Malapropians would come to know through garbled, distorted radio transmissions as Hearth.” Malaprop is a backward world, full of sideways slogans, a retrograde justice system, tribes at war, and a scarifying history. It is a world, in other words, very much like Earth. There, Addy muses—for roughly 100 pages—on the tangled histories of Malaprop and Hearth (and Hearth’s holy book, an amusingly and disturbingly garbled version of Earth’s own sacred texts called The Word: The Book of Nirvana, a popular recording of which was first performed by “the punkish unfamiliar young apostle Kurt”). As with most histories, alternative histories, or historical satires, details pile up here but characters don’t stick around. Once readers reach the present, roughly halfway through the novel, they learn why Addy has been imprisoned. They are told of Mandy MacBeth, she of the “double chin that collapsed into her neck and could flatten the sex drive of any normal healthy male,” her persecution of Addy, her lust for Sean, and the comeuppance she eventually receives. The novel is enormously fun to read, filled with jokes and wry asides about the recognizable madness of a planet so like Earth. The levels of reality are so tangled here that readers trying to puzzle out just what happens at the end, when Addy may or may not have the chance at a new life, may be mildly frustrated by the deliberate ambiguity of the closing pages. But for Pell, plot was never the point: this is a wide-ranging satire, not a narrowly focused one, and the pleasure of the author’s voice—combined with the bounty of her imagination—makes the moments reading this book feel like time well spent.
A poignant parody of media blather, modern romance, and mangled justice, with sci-fi accents.