April 22, 2016

Book Review—The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine by Krissy Kneen

Holly and her three childhood friends believe that True Love Waits. She is reminded of this every time she looks at her hand, with a silver ring, identical to those of her friends, inscribed with this mantra. This becomes ever more necessary as it becomes the stern contrast to the phosphorescent blue secretion from her groin whenever she becomes aroused, something that has been happening a lot recently. To excise or revel in this moment she has joined a book club that explores the many staples of erotic literature. Parallel to Holly’s discovery are the adventures of Nicholas, told in surreal sci-fi adventures, who embraces his sexuality from a young age and shares Holly’s luminous sexual energy.

Each chapter is named after a different erotic classic, from Andre Breton’s Nadja, to Nabokov’s Lolita and Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (which Kneen singles out with the title as well featuring very significantly in the work). These texts both feed Holly’s awakenings as well as provide fodder for Kneen’s interplays, with a mischievous wink here and a cheeky nudge of the elbow there. Switching between the more recognisable world of Holly and the seemingly fantastical one of Nicholas, with its grand battles and talk of the Orgone through the teachings of Wilhelm Reich, adds to the quirk of the story, and further exasperates the unfamiliar regions of sexual exploration within a sci-fi milieu. Where it does leave one unsatisfied is in its restraint, not regarding its erotic scenes, but its tone. What could have made for a raucous over-the-top tale that spared no bizarre contortion or delicious predilection often falls flaccid, with the sci-fi adventure aspects being a needed blue pill to garner interest rather than the gleaming blue lubricant that enhances the disreputable absurdities.

Even if it does not make the most of its sordid ridiculousness, The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine is wickedly amusing and without a shred of subtlety.    

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