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May 2004
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The Divine Comedy of Ariadne and Jupiter, by Shere Hite (1994), and Tetrarch, By Alex Comfort (1980)

YOU MIGHT imagine that when two famous sexologists decided to write fantasy novels, they would compose libidinous paeans to some realm of ludic hedonism. Well, you'd imagine wrong.

Shere Hite, famous for The Hite Report on Female Sexuality, manages to create a puerile and narcissistic novel at once smarmy and twee. From some non-denominational Heaven full of only famous people, a woman named Ariadne Rite descends to Earth with her insufferably wise dog, Jupiter. Once mortal, she becomes—an author! Producing a book called The Meaning of It All, she runs afoul of uptight male chauvinist pigs. Larded with statistics and girl talk with Cleopatra, this book resembles the offspring of The Little Prince, A Houseboat on the Styx, and any episode of The View.

Best known for The Joy of Sex, Comfort creates a world and story that's miles above Hite's, replete with invented alphabets, languages, and customs—and curiously elided sex scenes. But his subcreation still reeks of dreary over-intellectualism, a kind of adult Narnia for New Age scholars. Rosanne and Edward step through a magic door in Edinburgh and arrive in the city of Adambara, in the land of Los. (Cue the Blake exegesis.) Rosanne becomes a slave girl (shades of Gor!) and Edward a soldier, both enlisted against the technocratic fascism of neighboring Verula. Toss in some quantum physics and self-actualization, recounted Edwardian-style ("As you can see, strange visitor—"), and you begin to wonder if Comfort ever climaxed without dissecting his experience.

—Paul Di Filippo

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