Captain Carl is a Robo-pirate who develops and falls in love with an artificial intelligence that he has implanted into a placenta. This all takes place in an amusement park that covers the entire planet Venus. Don’t worry. It’s a lot to take in, and probably oversimplifies it a bit.
This is the basic plot behind Placenta of Love by Spike Marlowe, part of the 2011-2012 line in the New Bizarro Authors Series, which means that this is Marlowe’s first published novel. Each chapter begins with the description of a particular attraction around the park and how it works. It’s actually quite creative. It makes one wonder if the author may have been a Disney Imagineer in a previous incarnation.
The plot is decent. There’s some odd characters to be had, but nothing that’s really out of the realm of a bizarro novel. You have a Robo-cat that shows up and requests that Captain Carl gives it “spankies.” You have Pope Natzo Innocent of…okay, I’m not going into that because it would spoil the plot, and because this review would become an entire tome in and of itself were I to go into it.
It’s actually an interesting exploration into the how a childlike A.I. would potentially learn about its surrounding, decide it doesn’t want to do what it was designed to do, but then discovers that it may be necessary to address its true nature. In an amusement park. On the planet Venus. Well, it’s certainly a better exploration of this than that God-awful movie “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” for which I still haven’t forgiven Steven Spielberg and quite possibly never will.
The writing and the story line are good, if a bit far-fetched physically, which when dealing with a bizarro novel is saying something. My biggest complaint is probably the characters. Captain Carl and even Natzo Innocent are written well, with Carl as a developing and learning A.I., while Natzo is an experienced A.I. and has learned more about the ways of the world. But a lot of the other characters felt a little flat. Even Helen, Captain Carl’s love interest and titular placenta, comes off a bit two-dimensional, only pushing the boundaries of a third-dimension and not quite taking shape. Still, strip out the bizarro elements and it’s a classic, tragic love story. And I have to give the author credit for her creativity in actually thinking about how such an amusement park and each ride would work. That kind of attention to detail is surprising for a short novella, but helps bring the location to life.
Placenta of Love by Spike Marlowe earns 4 out of 5 glowing orange fingers.