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Human Nature Review 2002 Volume 2: 68-69 ( 31 January )
URL of this document http://human-nature.com/nibbs/02/6869.html
by P. J. Goddard
Hilltop Publishing, 2001.
Reviewed by John Morrison.
The publisher describes this book as “the first black comedy of the biotechnological age” and the author as “the epitome of modern renaissance man” who has produced a novel that “eventually leads to the one man with the power to disassemble and reconstruct human life itself.”
Libidan concerns our hero Bill Kennedy who is a researcher at a small chemical laboratory operated by Asper Pharmaceuticals. Bill is stuck in a rut, going nowhere and unhappy with his dead end unchallenging job. Bill is a bachelor, lives with his sister, and as the book unfolds we learn that he is not overly successful with the opposite sex. He works with an assistant called Angela; he finds her presence in the lab a distraction, as she is the object of his mounting sexual desire. Angela shows no interest in Bill whatsoever and goes about her work with the objectivity and dedication of an ambitious chemist. However, in her presence Bill becomes a fumbling, uncoordinated adolescent male; he is unable to function effectively, and it is due to this distraction that a freak accident occurs, which leads to the discovery of Libidan.
A routine hormone experiment changes Bill’s life in every respect. Blaming the distraction of Angela’s presence (rather than Bill’s failure to follow lab procedures) the experiment goes wrong. The first hint of how badly wrong the experiment has gone is revealed when the previously distant Angela demands that Bill meets her sexual needs both immediately in the laboratory and then all afternoon in the privacy of an adjoining store cupboard. Flattered, confused, and physically sore it slowly dawns on Bill that the experiment has resulted in a compound that produces instant insatiable sexual passion in women.
Thanks to the CCTV installed in the laboratory the whole incident is recorded for posterity. Following careful and repeated analysis of the recording by the suits in the Human Resource Department, Bill is fired and has to leave the site at short notice. This he does, but not before he destroys all evidence of the experiment, wiping his computer files and replacing them with some evidence of invalid but superficially credible research activity.
Our hero now finds himself unemployed (and still sore) but with the knowledge that his experiment has produced a product which, if commercially exploited, has the potential to make him both powerful and wealthy.
The above represents approximately the first 100 pages of the book. It is not a roller coaster of a read but a rather dry and pedantic development of plot and character. It was with relief that at this point the novel slips up a gear and really takes off.
The reader is invited to share in Bill’s ethical dilemma. Libidan could be valuable in treating problems with sexual dysfunction. It could be useful, or at any rate enjoyable, when used by consenting adults. Should he produce and market Libidan?
In the interests of science (as he had convinced himself) Bill administers the drug, at a concentration of 5 parts per million, to Louise, his sister’s best friend, and the desired results are replicated. He observes that Louise is left feeling confused and humiliated by her lack of control, and she feels ashamed that she has betrayed her best friend. So, is Libidan a potential wonder drug? Bill recognises that while the compound could have clinical value it could easily be used for the purposes of date rape, and for the exploitation, degradation, and humiliation of women. Libidan had the potential for great good and great evil.
Together Bill and Louise go on to refine Libidan, to develop it as product, and to sell and distribute it via the Internet. Commercially it is a success, but the costs are enormous. Even though Bill feels that he is a thoughtful, ethical, and essentially good man, circumstances arise where he feels forced to produce and distribute Libidan for his own need for money, safety and ultimately his life.
The last 150 pages address this and subsequent dilemmas in a style reminiscent of Tom Sharpe. It is fast, provocative, and very funny. Having left the socially sterile laboratory environment Bill meets an array of larger than life “real people”. These include greedy venture capitalists; animal rights activists, drug dealers (both legitimate and otherwise) and many others. Bill gets involved with the police and medicine licensing authorities, and generally his quiet life becomes an existential nightmare from which it appears there is no escape. It is a journey in which the reader is forced to become involved. You can’t avoid considering the issues with which Bill is faced. Through this your are compelled to examine your own position in relation to how far you will sink before hitting back in order to preserve your own fundamental beliefs, and your own ethical and moral base line.
Towards the end of the book Bill is summoned to the offices of Paul Giulani, the tone changes from Tom Sharpe to The Matrix, the canvas of life expands, reality is tested, and nothing is ever the same again for the reader or our poor hero Bill. Paul Giulani is a big wheel in life; he claims to be an observer, an anthropologist. Here philosophy meets quantum physics, genetic engineering, and the future of mankind. If his observations are correct, and I fear they are, then we all have a big problem.
Libidan is a challenge. As the story unfolds it improves with every chapter, and becomes more enjoyable with each twist. Read it¾you will never think or perceive the same way again.
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Buy Libidan from Amazon.co.uk
© John Morrison.
John Morrison teaches psychiatry and supervises anthropology at Guy’s Hospital in London and works as a social worker in a CMHC in Kent.
Morrison, J. (2002). Review of Libidan by P. J. Goddard. Human Nature Review. 2: 68-69.