(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1971 edition)
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…
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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