Book: Placenta of Love
Author: Spike Marlowe
Type of Book: Fiction, bizarro, novella
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Many reasons. Many. The best one I can offer here is that this book features an artificial intelligence with borderline personality disorder who exists in a large placenta.
Availability: Published by Eraserhead Press in 2011, you can get a copy here:
Comments: Placenta of Love is a very strange, unsettling but interesting and hilarious book. It’s quite insane, with a disturbing concept executed in a well-developed alternate world. Punctuated with descriptions of a theme park on Venus, Placenta of Love tells the story of an automaton pirate called Captain Carl, who is created by a robot maintenance worker called Zampanò (a nice reference to House of Leaves, so yay to that) to have superior intelligence. Zampanò treated his pirate automaton as a student, teaching him philosophy and other subjects. Then one day Zampanò’s cat, Jiji, an intrusive but seductive beast who likes frequent “spankies” shows up to tell Captain Carl that Zampanò has died.
“Why don’t you turn him back on?” Captain Carl asked.
“Zampanò was human. His body is real. You can’t just turn him back on,” Jiji said.
“Well then. We’ll cobble together a new one. We’ll insert his back up, and…”
“Human bodies don’t work like that,” Jiji said. “He’s gone. For always.”
“Oh,” Captain Carl said. “He should have backed himself up.”
“An important lesson for us all,” Jiji said.
Jiji then gives Captain Carl a large, orange vibrating finger that is essentially a dildo with three settings because she likes being rubbed with it. Jiji is indeed a perverse little cat, but I really preferred her to the mate Captain Carl ends up with. Better to have a demanding cat than an enormous, destructive, needy placenta as a wife. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Zampanò is replaced by a tyrant and Captain Carl must fight him and would have lost when his peg leg came off had Jiji not saved the day by attacking the tyrant herself so Captain Carl could get away (Jiji is sooo much more useful than the sentient placenta, it must be said). Jiji decides it’s time to cut out and leave for greater Venus so Captain Carl creates some artificial intelligence of his own so he won’t be lonely. And it is here that things go terribly wrong, though we don’t know it at first, but it must be said that Captain Carl clearly wanted a companion with a marginal personality because she was only what he made her to be.
He chats with this A.I., whom he later names Helen, and decides he likes her so much he wants to upload her into a body. He takes a piecemeal approach, scavenging parts from other automatons but hates the jumbled effect so many disparate parts create. He looks for a single body but finds that even the pretty automatons with flowing hair are too cold to house his Helen. He then stumbles into Dr. Fabuloso’s Magical Universe of Bodily Wonders, a tent filled with various bodily grotesques, including:
…a pulsing, deep fuchsia-colored placenta, about the size of a bowling ball, illuminated by a corona of soft pink light.
And it is a placenta that Captain Carl thinks the best place to insert Helen’s sentience. This next description was so marvelously horrible to me, just so creepy and magnificent.
He ran his hand across its surface. “So warm,” he whispered. “Warm and soft.” He breathed deeply, his eyes closed. “Raspberries. Like fresh raspberries.” He took off his pirate hat and ran his cheek along the placenta. He smiled; the same smile that had crossed his face when he’d read Helen’s first words.
Holy crap. And I really wonder why this freaks me out. I think it is because I have read too many serial killer books wherein vaginas and uteri are cut out of bodies and kept as trophies. I also just reacted to the notion that an automaton pirate with artificial intelligence is drawn to a disembodied reproductive organ. But in its way, this is perfect. It makes perfect sense that a robot who has created artificial life would feel such a reaction toward an organ that sustains life before it is born. It is also an interesting subversion that Marlowe has her protagonist find something sensual in not even a reproductive organ – he is not caressing a uterus here – but what is essentially a trash organ. He is not interested in a pretty face, enormous breasts, or a round ass. He is drawn immediately to tissues that feed growing life. He wants to insert Helen into this collection of tissues that nourishes.
And it is here, perhaps, that things go terribly wrong for Captain Carl because inserting Helen into that which nourishes embryonic growth causes her to feel terribly empty inside. It was here that Helen became a nagging, horrible, whiny, needy nightmare. But Captain Carl is game. He tolerates her endless whining as she begs to be filled with something, anything, to feel more… something. What Helen wanted sort of failed to register because I was more or less remembering a borderline college roommate of mine who had a similar personality.
So Captain Carl uses his hook hand to slash a small slit in the placenta and inserts a “vocal apparatus” into the hole and sews it up. Her consciousness and an ability to speak all settled into the spongy mass, Helen and Captain Carl get down to some connubial cuddling. All those passages are deeply freakish and possibly the stuff of nightmare fuel. But the moment she’s able to speak, she begins to make demands. Is she pretty? Does he love her? Will he take her on amusement park rides? Of course they are both fugitives because he is an escaped automaton who stole a large placenta to cram his beloved into, but that doesn’t stop their love from blooming and it doesn’t prevent Helen from quickly accelerating her learning as she explores the world.
Helen was learning quickly, absorbing everything she could about the world she was increasingly able to sense around her.
I didn’t know it yet but the word “absorb” is a bit of foreshadowing.
I’m gonna skip the Captain Carl and Helen becoming one passages because, just to be honest here, they freak me out, but know that they require more cutting open of the placenta that is Helen and that orange, vibrating finger comes into play. Also, skipping that gives me more time to discuss why Helen quickly became for me a combination of Evelyn from Play Misty for Me and Michelle Duggar.
See, were I Captain Carl, I would have taken the cat, given her spankies and run for the hills once I got a good look at what Helen became once nestled in that placenta. Because the moment Helen was nestled in the mushy but fibrous trash organ, she became so needy and frightening I know that the guys over on Shrink 4 Men would have PTSD after reading this book. Oh Helen was creepy. And bear in mind she’s been in existence around a week or so when being an A.I. in a placenta isn’t enough for her.
“I feel… empty. I feel like I should be full, filled with something. Like I should be large and fat. But I feel like I’m… deflated.”
Okay, that’s not so bad but it gets worse and one definitely feels like Captain Carl sort of brought this on himself for putting the consciousness of his beloved inside a disembodied placenta, and since he actually created the entirety of Helen’s consciousness, who knows? Maybe he wanted this nightmare.
Helen’s yearnings to be filled (let this be a lesson to all of us – put our A.I. into organs that at least don’t chronically feel empty) are continual and creepy. She desperately wants children.
“I want to carry them, inside of me. I’m so hungry for it, Captain. I ache for it.”
Again, I felt like Helen should have been inside a uterus because a placenta really doesn’t hold anything, but never mind.
So of course Captain Carl has to go find the Robo Pope to see if he can find a way to knock up his placenta bride. Not gonna ruin too much of that quest for you but I do want to share a bit of Marlowe’s loony prose-style.
“The church teaches Saint Zampanò decreed that if man and machine ever merged, it would be fulfillment of the end-times prophecy, and the destruction of the universe!”
“Not exactly,” said Natzo. “He said it in an off-hand way while making a bologna sandwich. God, he ate so many of those. Couldn’t have been good for his heart. All that fake meat and plastic cheese. Anyway, I asked him what would happen if we mixed Robos and humans, and he shrugged and said, ‘Might be a bad idea.’ And then he ate his sandwich.”
Lucky for him he gets something similar to an answer because Helen is… seriously fucking annoying.
“I feel emptier and emptier all the time,” Helen said.
And here’s where I am going to stop discussing the plot with quotes. Just know that when Captain Carl finally has sex with Helen it causes her to become a vessel that can never ever be filled and she goes on a strange, very disgusting rampage.
Did I mention that Captain Carl should have run off with Jiji the cat? She knew the score!
“Why did you have to make such a bitchy A.I., Pirate?”
But it has a happy ending, sort of. And Jiji doesn’t die, as I feared she would. Sorry to spoil that, but I really could not have stomached it had the cat died. You know how I am about cats.
Also worth mentioning are the descriptions of the amusement park planet Venus. Each chapter of the horrors of Helen are prefaced with a passage describing the various rides in the park. One of my favorites:
The Tilt-‘N-Hurl is primarily popular with teenagers who are old enough to not pass out during the ride from fear, yet are young enough to not vomit throughout the entire ride. Despite the name, it is preferred guests do not hurl on The Tilt-‘N-Hurl, or any other Venusian ride.
Similar to the Earth favorite, the “Tilt-a-Whirl”, the Tilt-‘N-Hurl sends guests turning from side-to-side and head-over-heels as the ride’s platform slings the guests past Venus’ atmosphere and into low orbit. The ride then falls back to its platform. Guests are asked to keep heads and limbs inside the Tilt-‘N-Hurl at all times to prevent injuries. If necessary, replacement automaton body parts are available at Guest Services for a reasonable fee.
All in all, this was a pretty darn good first effort. Clever puns about birthers, a Robo-Pope, a strange cult that resents the merging of “man and machine,” an awesome cat, a rampaging placenta, a confused animatronic pirate on a quest to find out how to get a placenta A.I. pregnant. This is pure bizarro and if Helen had not set my teeth on edge to the point that I found myself getting a jaw cramp, this would be a nearly flawless, insane book.
So I say buy this book, and I say buy it nowish because like all NBAS authors, Marlowe has a limited period of time to sell enough books in order to get a writing contract. Get a copy soon so you have a chance to read more of Marlowe’s fine, cat-infested lunacy.