Book Review: The Sea is Boiling Hot, George Bamber (1971)

(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1971 edition)

2/5 (Bad)

The Sea is Boiling Hot (1971), George Bamber’s sole novel length contribution to the genre (thankfully), is the unabashedly pornographic version of the ecological disaster, humanity cooped-up in massive domed cities, let’s all get lobotomies to escape the horrors of the world science fiction.  As in, large portions of the narrative are endless sex scenes all gussied up with the accouterments of ecological “message” science fiction.

Unfortunately the sex scenes are there, in all their endless variation, simply to titillate to the reader rather than a necessary part of world building/character analysis — I’m thinking of Silverberg’s The World Inside (1971) where the entire social structure of his world was organized around the principle of production, hence, frequent sexual content or Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo (1972) where the main character’s impotency is central to his persona.  Bamber tries his absolutely hardest to be edgy and controversial but the entire work comes off as juvenile — like high school bomb threats or giant penis graffiti in gas station restrooms…

Plot Summary (*some spoilers*)

Sometime in the far future humanity has retreated to an array of giant domed cities spread across the continents.  The lakes have long been filled in with human and industrial waste, the rivers have been transformed into giant concrete sewage dispensing devices, the “air” is unbreathable, and the oceans are literally boiling due to atomic waste and heat generated from previous attempts to generate power.  Transport between cities is facilitated by a handy matter transportation device (what vast power source this would require is never really described and I was under the assumption that resources were at a premium).

To escape the horrors of existence in such crowded cities a large percentage of the population opts out — as in, gets lobotomized.  This generally means the optees run around having sex with anything and everything physically possible.  Those that have no opted out, including our “hero” Heron Attee who is supposedly a scientist of some note, spend their time in holographic projections of novels, having lots of sex (surprise surprise!), and slurping aquaculture proteins (think fish protein grown in vats) from dispensing tubes.

Heron has discovered a handy formula that will utilize the matter transporter and reverse the pollution.  Bamber gives up pretty quickly trying to explain how this formula would work… He has much more fun talking about sex during a holographic representation of a Japanese attack on some atoll out in the Pacific.  Heron is torn, he sees the dire state the world has descended in but has little hope that mankind will learn from any of their mistakes.  He rather abandon all that he knows and die up in the mountains where the little remaining breathable air remains.  Or opt out.  But the state (and its increasingly powerful computers) don’t want to lose the formula.

The most intriguing elements of the novel concern Heron’s struggle understanding how the past must have been before people were relegated to the domed cities (books, animals, farms, cars).  At one point Heron talkes about Disney’s, a strange place where reconstructions of animals move around reconstructed farms and where you can drink “milk” right out of a reconstructed udder.  But again, I have the feeling that Bamber included this sequence for other reasons…

Final Thoughts

It’s all rather unfortunate — if the editor would have cut out the majority of the orgies, metal stimulating rods, sex/sex play with underage children, cyborgs randomly using said stimulating rods while talking to our main character, The Sea is Boiling Hot would’t be such an awful read.  The future earth is sufficiently realized to make the main character’s motivating (well, demotivating) quandary believable.

If you are into 70s attempts at erotic science fiction perhaps it’s worth reading.  But then again, I am not the judge (or a fan) of such dubious subgenres.  But I would gander that an overpolluted /mostly lobotomized world mixed with endless erotic content would only appeal to a niche within a niche…

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22 thoughts on “Book Review: The Sea is Boiling Hot, George Bamber (1971)

          • That’s what you get for doing reviews. I had an embarrassing situation once when I connected with an author (fairly famous) that challenged me to read one of his books. I didn’t like it at first, but I am committed to reviewing every book I read. Now what do I do? It turned out I liked the book quite well after I got into it, so it turned out all right.

            • I had an author pretend to be someone else on twitter and befriend me, then complain about a review I wrote of his novel — one of the worst things I’ve ever read in my life — and then his twitter persona sent me messages correcting things in the review pretending to be a different person. When I confronted him he unfollowed — and I guess, stormed off.

            • OMG, that’s a good one.
              I hate to say it, I am a reader, and I am entitled to my opinion. I paid for your book, you wrote it and published it. Now you have to deal with the reality of people’s opinions….

  1. Joachim, My reading life became so much more enjoyable [much more than I would have thought beforehand] after I realized I was at a point where I can comfortably trust my sense of if a book was going to be any good after only a few pages. It`s not about action or anything folks talk about when discussing the latest bestselling crap they liked, but style, and if I am enjoying those first pages. I began dumping books after about a chapter. This happened around the time when I did something I`ve not done before or since: bought a book at full retail price, finished reading it, and literally threw it across the room and into the trash. Now I read on only if I`m enjoying it. After a recent near-death experience I realized life truly is too short, and I abandon books routinely–and enjoy every book I finish now. Not recommending this for you or anyone else, just saying the power to close a book one`s not enjoying is one to wield freely. 🙂

    • Eh, it only took me a few hours to read (I guess I would have quit if it was some 700 + page monstrosity) — and I like the over polluted theme… And, as I mentioned, it could have been so much better.

      But you watch B sci-fi films… I no longer do that 😉 I only watch worthwhile films and quit them all the time. I guess we all have our vices — and if mine is bad science fiction then no harm done.]

      But yes, I understand the sentiment completely.

  2. I shut off movies all the time, and I`ve never seen a division between B films and `good` films as the result of anything but marketing. I find Angry Red Planet a better `head` movie than any number of respected foreign art films. Just cuz it`s ain`t from the US doesn`t make it good, and just cuz it is celebrated as high art doesn`t mean it can`t be seen as `just` entertainment, its depths and themes ignored in favor of more immediate pleasures. I don`t discriminate! 😀 BTW regarding your subject book, when I saw the link I first thought the author`s name was part of the title, a Phil Dickian one at that.

    • Because the author wanted to be edgy… At least that’s the feeling I got — and thus becomes more sci-fi erotica than sci-fi.

      If you’re curious about overpolluted worlds in science fiction I highly highly recommend John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (1972) — as you can imagine, such dark topics aren’t for the fainthearted.

  3. Great point about edgy writing, music, art. You can`t put on edginess, it has to emerge from your honest work. The difference between edgy and `edgy` can often be determined by whether people think your kind of edginess is cool and they want to dress and talk in this new `edgy` way. True edginess is scary to some, but is recognizable by a sharp excitement that grips my imagination as I`m reading/watching. True edginess will inspire some to run away, but others to–not copy your edginess, and thus make it no longer edgy–be more themselves, edginess be damned. Sort of like the cliche, `He`s not trying to be cool, which makes him cool.`

  4. Final thought: Have you ever noticed how most books and movies advertised as `controversial` are absolutely no such thing to their target audience? Check out the latest `controversial` book and you will find concepts the target audience believes already, and the thrill is that people unlike them [conservatives, usually] will hate it. Present the folks who support this sort of thing with truly controversial [to THEIR beliefs] ideas, and you will be denounced as a hater, bigot, anti-intellectual, or fascist or whatever the latest edgy 😉 word is for Someone Who Doesn`t Support My Pet Ideas. As Harlan once said, `Make people think you`re making them think and they`ll love you; TRULY make them think, and they`ll hate you.` In the above book, I suspect the average reader wasn`t scandalized by the sex or politics–so what was truly edgy about it? [Your review reveals the answer.]

    • But, there are tons of examples of actually controversial type media — obviously, when censorship laws were enforced vigorously only a few films/books etc could creep through the cracks — and then, yes, they were controversial. But as you point out generally when someone says controversial in today’s environment where censorship is incredibly relaxed/non-existent they aren’t exactly controversial for their audience. But, works like Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo, or Philip Jose Farmer’s The Lovers, etc were controversial in their day because their audiences were primarily young boys still…. So perhaps it’s worth considering the time period. I suspect that this book, due to its sexual content, was rather scandalous for even its audience….

  5. I read this as a 13 year old when it came out. Not sure how much I would like it at 60 but I remember it more than a lot of other books.

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