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Vintage Treasures: The Pollinators of Eden by John Boyd

Saturday, June 25th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Pollinators of Eden-back-small The Pollinators of Eden-small

Here’s an odd little book.

It was fairly routine for publishers to use sex to sell paperbacks in the 60s and 70s (and 80s, and 90s, and….) But usually they teased the reader with sexy cover art, or code words like “sensuous” and “spicy” (or “French”) to signal sexual content. The Pollinators of Eden has a more overt sexual theme, dealing with an intelligent and sexually voracious species of tulip discovered on a distant planet.

It was Boyd’s second novel, following The Last Starship from Earth (1968), and preceding The Rakehells of Heaven (1969) and Sex and the High Command (1970), and critics at the time didn’t really know what to make of it. Analog reviewer P. Schuyler Miller praised it as “A treat for its picture of intra- and interagency intrigue alone… a worthy candidate for the next round of ‘best novel’ awards,” but M. John Harrison called it “a feebler look at The Ring of Ritornel,” and Kirkus Reviews said it “has enough Freudian fertilizer to swamp any Eden.”

It was not a hit in the US, and has never been reprinted here. But in the UK it appeared in four separate paperback editions between 1970-78,  from Gollancz, The Science Fiction Book Club (UK), Pan, and Penguin. It has been out of print for 38 years.

The Pollinators of Eden was published by Dell in November 1970. It is 212 pages, priced at 75 cents. I bought the copy above (along with The Last Starship From Earth) in an online lot for $2.99. The cover is by Paul Lehr; click the images above for bigger versions. There is no digital edition.

4 Comments »

  1. A co-worker of mine in the mid 1980s was a fan of John Boyd, so I read a number of his works, including his “sex” trilogy (Pollinators, The Rakehells of Heaven, Sex and the High Command), which I remember as being decently satiric if slight on the humor or sex fronts.

    I am somewhat surprised that Pollinators never came back into print after its initial run. It is not a hard book to find (well, none of his US editions are).

    Comment by Eugene R. - June 25, 2016 10:26 pm

  2. I never read ‘Sex and the High Command’, but remember the other two from my teens. ‘The Last Starship from Earth’ , with its 1984 ambience, particularly sticks in my mind. In one introduction, Boyd explains that each book was a reworking of some classical myth. Which myths? There you have me.

    Comment by Aonghus Fallon - June 27, 2016 10:11 am

  3. > I read a number of his works, including his “sex” trilogy (Pollinators, The Rakehells of Heaven, Sex and the High Command)

    Eugene,

    I’ve never heard them referred to as a sex trilogy before… but I think it’s a propos. And it’s sure to stick in my head, now!

    Comment by John ONeill - June 27, 2016 10:23 am

  4. > In one introduction, Boyd explains that each book was a reworking of some classical myth. Which myths? There you have me.

    Aonghus,

    That’s intriguing! I’ll have to explore that. Sounds like an excellent topic for a future Vintage Treasures article (right after the next one, on “sex trilogies.”)

    Comment by John ONeill - June 27, 2016 10:25 am


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