The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine
Text Publishing (AU: 22nd April 2015)
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TRIGGER WARNINGS: Non-consent, bestiality.
The problem with reading a very specific niche of a book is that you may have no baseline story with which to compare it. The publisher’s cover copy calls Krissy Kneen’s The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine a “literary sci-fi superhero sex romp”, which is only kind of accurate.
The “sex romp” description is spot-on. Holly White starts off as a virgin Brisbane uni student with an abstinence ring. When she sexually awakens, she’s encouraged to go to Paris with a suitcase full of erotic classics written in or about the French capital.
I’m not good at defining styles of writing, but we could ascribe “literary” to the many references to books and writers that frequent the pages of Holly White, such as the chapter headings.
Those looking for “sci-fi” will be mostly disappointed. It was a big calling card for me, and I looked forward to learning about orgone energy. (William Reich is real, though orgone energy is pseudoscience.) While it is included, it’s very minimal – really more of a plot device rather than a concept fully explored.
Accumulating orgone energy is one thing, but what you do with it is…well, not really considered in the book. Judging by William Reich’s experiment, it can make mung beans grow, so could it be used to generate plant life and crops? Orgone energy can be collected into a battery, so could it be used as an alternative to electricity?
The novel never goes there, into how orgone energy could change the world for the better. (It does quite the opposite.) Some may claim life is not about the destination; it’s about the climb. And therein lies the problem: when there’s so much sex in a book that you find an orgy scene somewhat boring, that doesn’t bode well.
As for the “superhero” part of the description, absolutely not. Holly’s orgone accumulation may be a “superpower”, but it doesn’t save anyone’s life (quite the opposite), or prevent destruction. There’s nothing “superhero” about it.
I won’t give up on Krissy Kneen, though. I’ve loved her books before (I highly recommend Steeplechase), and I’m sure I’ll love her future books, too. (I’ve heard word about a book of interconnected sci-fi short stories.) And while Holly White has an irresistible WTF concept, its execution leaves a lot to be desired.