THE ECSTASY by Norman John

THE ECSTASY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Anything can happen—murder, deep-space sabotage, and lots and lots of sex—aboard the 23rd-century interplanetary luxury liner The Ecstasy during its Earth-to-Saturn cruise.

John’s hefty novel may remind some, in a weird warp-speed way, of the kitsch-TV classic The Love Boat, even though the author, in a “Special Thanks” section, credits such wide-ranging influences as Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Douglas Adams and Tom Robbins (plus some PC-game designers). The setting is 2258 A.D., as the Dutch-registered luxury cruise spaceship Ecstasy embarks on an Earth-to-Saturn run with 5,000 tourists and crew members (including an onboard defense force). The great ship accommodates manifold interests in its social clubs and amusement/shopping arcades. But sex seems paramount—whether it’s stalwart Capt. Phil Sherwood’s wife’s ongoing fling with an alien or unchaperoned teens determined to copulate in every corner of the craft (the ship also boasts a legendary in-house prostitute, Zena). Intrigue, drama and mystery come in varied doses: the assassination of a Swedish VIP, obsessed stalkers, a minor cancer scare for a female passenger (the latter easily solved by future medicine). But the main...thrust...is a conspiratorial computer program (called a “sub-routine”) deep within the ship’s operating system that sends The Ecstasy on a seemingly uncontrollable, hypervelocity journey into the unknown, far past Pluto. The program is modeled after an orgasm. Yes it is. The work’s length, scope and detail are impressive, even when some parts seem like unwelcome stowaways (e.g., episodes of occult magic include a mystic, materializing Templar Knight). And these 23rd-century folk seem unusually stuck in the pop culture of the 20th-century’s baby boomers; references include cable TV’s Ancient Aliens, traveling Route 66, Barry White as an aphrodisiac, and authors Stephen King and L. Ron Hubbard. On that Dianetical note, a loathsome character specified as a critic of Scientology gets a summary execution verdict and is shoved out of the airlock. A lengthy epilogue/analysis dominates the last 100 pages, pondering the age of consent and incest and blaming much of past society’s ills on psychiatry.

“Julie, your Cruise Director” mates with Barbarella, in more ways than one.

Pub Date: April 24th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1482561739
Page count: 822pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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