Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet (1957)

Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet (1977)
Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet (1977)

A planet full of virgins, well isn’t that every young star faring adolescent’s dream? Or is it, really? A few authors have tried this angle before, but here it is Poul Anderson, one of the big names, that paints the world of amazon virgins. The story revolts around Davis Bertram, a fun but lazy guy that likes to take shortcuts in life, and whose good looks have saved him from any serious consequences (except a trail of crushed hearts of women seduced). Just graduated from space academy he wants to experience the big adventure, gets the thumbs up to go and steers his spaceship to the vicinity of a big reality vortex. Said vortex has hindered any serious exploration in that part of the universe, but now the intensity has dwindled and Bertram is ready to take his chances. In a jest he tells his buddies that he is about to find a world full of women – and hey, that’s exactly what he does.

He merely touches the ground before being trapped and disarmed by Barbara, a red-headed warrior vixen with a temper as sharp as her axe. Barbara drags poor Bertram back to her city, where the big question is wether he is in fact a man – or a monster. The city, an indeed the whole planet, is female only – a sort of early medieval society with warrior women. They are all descendants of a ship that crashed some 300 years ago, but with no men around propagation is based on parthenogenesis conducted by the Doctors using the old ship’s laboratory. The Doctors are religious leaders, proclaiming the arrival of the almighty Fathers – men with supposed magic properties. The big problem for Bertam is to show that he is a man, and not a monster pretending to be a man. If he is a monster he needs to be killed, and if he is a man he is worth killing for!

The story quickly turns into a classic adventure voyage where Bertram and a little band of unlikely women – including Barbara and her twin Vivian – transverse mountains and forests, nearly escaping dangers and plans to kill Bertram. And everywhere: the temptation of voluptuous women hungry for the first man in three hundred years.

It’s not a bad story, as adventure goes – and fairly well written. The problems are more related to the shallowness of the women, but that may be expected for a book with this title. A particular narrative problem is that all derived clones from each of the original shipmates retain the personality of the original, regardless of a new cultural background. It is like all determinants of a personality would be inscribed in the genes, and not being the intricate product of genes, environment and social culture (or nature and nurture, if you so wish). It is, of course, a convenient and creative backdrop, enabling pre-prescribed reactions in the cast, where every clone behaving similarly in a given situation. It is a tad bit tedious. Another irritant is that so many women would just jump into his arms wanting to be fertilized. However, I can disclose that he never gets laid, as there’s always some monster/warrior attack/sibling mix-up interfering with the act.

(3 out of 5 | entertaining, but leaning towards banality)

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