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Coronet, London, 1978
(price: 75p; 192 pages)

originally published as Son of Kronk by Hodder & Stoughton, 1970

The blurb on the back:

P939 — the greatest venereal disease in the history of mankind.
The day Gabriel Chrome
[sic], a failed book sculptor contemplating his suicide on the Thames Embankment, stumbled on the suicide bid of the naked Camilla Greylaw, was a day of hopeful redemption for a corrupt and violent world.
For the lovely form that he chanced to preserve was the sole carrier of a contagious venereal disease. A bug which could inhibit the aggressive instinct, rendering total placidity in all humans.
At once Gabriel's life has new meaning and purpose. To save mankind becomes his hardened ambition. But mankind seems far from hope.

’Mr. Cooper takes a brisk succession of targets and manages to smack most of them on the nose’ - Financial Times
’He writes with great authority and skill’ – Arthur C Clarke

opening lines:

Armed with a half-litre bottle of British vodka, two plastic cups and the conviction that suicide would be an appropriate conclusion to his artistic non-career, Gabriel Crome sat on the steps of the Albert Memorial and felt sad.

Like the other books by Edward Cooper on this site, this is set in a recognizable future Britain. Here is a London where you can get raped on reality TV, where the skyscape is dominated by a euthanasia centre named the Bertrand Russell Twilight Tower and where there’s a statue to Sir Michael Jagger. (Only took 25 years for the title to come through, so maybe it’s time to start the public subscription for a statue.) Meanwhile St Paul’s has been converted into a home for the God Machines, which allow direct access to the wise computers run by the new church Romaprot, and the royal family have been banished to Monarchiland, a theme park in the Highlands.

In this semi-surreal world we encounter a pair of identical twin spies (each a double-agent, though working on opposite sides), a government agency populated by neurotics and lunatics, and – centrally - a couple who have been infected by a virus that ensures they only wish to make love not war. Can the virus be spread widely enough before the authorities stamp it out? What are the long-term side-effects of the virus? Will Mr Cooper manage to wrap up so many disparate strands in the space of a short paperback?

Actually, none of those questions matter too much. Cooper’s approach is so blunderbuss, spraying satirical grapeshot seemingly at random, that you don’t get the chance to draw breath and consider where you are. There’s just a rush of … of stuff. Apart from the main storyline, there’s also a cast of minor characters who drop by for a brief chapter and then wander off again, but make their mark nonetheless – I was particularly fond of the mercenary surgeon, Dr Moreau, and of a club: ‘The Flipped Lid, much frequented by artists, pseudo-artists, models and pseudo-models.’ (p.131)

In short, a fine read: intelligent, imaginative and very entertaining. Just wish these publishers would get the name right of the protagonist when they write the sleeve-notes: it's Crome (as in Aldous Huxley's Crome Yellow), not Chrome.


from the maker of:
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Five To Twelve
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Who Needs Men?

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