Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > To Prime the Pump

To Prime the Pump by A. Bertram Chandler
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review of
A. Bertram Chandler's To Prime the Pump
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 17, 2016

The front cover of this one says: "El Dorado is a planet with a problem: the men are infertile—and the ladies are getting out of hand" so the targeted reader of the time, 1971, probably mostly young heterosexual boys, is immediately led to imagine 'our hero', John Grimes, landing on a planet where he's expected to impregnate a bevy of desperate women. This is sortof what happens but the whole business is more about class than it is about sexual fantasy.

"["]Even you, young Grimes, must know how, on world after world, the trend has been towards socialism. Some societies have gone the whole hog, preaching and practicing the Gospel According to St. Marx. Some have contented themselves with State control of the means of production and supply, with ruinous taxation of the very well-to-do thrown in. There have been levelling up processes and levelling down processes, and these have hurt the aristocracies of birth and breeding as much as they have hurt the aristocracies of Big Business and industry.

""And so the Corporation was formed. Somehow its members managed to get most of their wealth out of their home worlds, and much of it was used for the terraforming of El Dorado. Terraforming? Landscape gardening would be a better phrase. Yes, that world's no more, and no less, than a huge, beautiful park, with KEEP OFF THE GRASS signs posted insofar as the common herd is concerned."

""What about servants? Technicians?" asked Grimes.

""The answer to that problem, my boy, was automation, automation and still more automation.["]" - pp 10-11

Alright, here're a couple of typical asides of mine: Notice that the word "levelling" has a doubled consonant before the suffix. That wd've been 'correct' at the time. Now it's 'incorrect'. That's how fast the rules of language change. Change them yrself! Take yr new language out for a test drive! ALSO, automation as a thing that eliminates the need for human labor is completely delusional. Just as there are factory workers for cranking out the cars & mechanics for servicing them so will there always be humans somehow stuck w/ keeping the automation going.

"The voice was as arrogant as Daintree's own but in a different way. It was the arrogance that comes with money (too much money), as with inherited titles, with a bloodline traced back to some uncouth robber baron who happened to be a more efficient thief and murderer than his rivals." - p 15

Well put. Strangely enuf, these days, tho, I'm not hating on the robber barons as much as I once did. In Pittsburgh, where I live, Henry Clay Frick was 'smart' enuf to buy the coke ovens off of the individual owners & to turn the result into the basis for a huge steel industry. Then Frick violently suppressed any attempts by the workers to unite for better working conditions. Alexander Berkman tried to assassinate him during the thick of this. I admire Berkman's audacity but he wasn't really a killer or he wd've succeeded. He was probably too nice a guy. Now there's a Frick Park in Pittsburgh. It's large & I love to go there. It's too bad that there's no Berkman Park but I'm thankful for the Frick one.

El Dorado, the planet of the super-rich, has no government. I reckon that that makes this particular fantasy planet of Chandler's a little less believable insofar as I find it hard to imagine any planet of ruthless bloodsuckers not trying to dominate a radioactive shit-pile. Then again, maybe they save that for planets where there're serfs.

"["]I take it that you are representative of your government."

""We have no government, Captain Daintree, such as you understand the word," said de Messigny. "But it was decided that this little group here was the best qualified to meet you.["]" - p 45

This makes the people of El Dorado anarchists - highly improbable given their wealth & their choice of planet name. Then we get to the meat of the matter:

"["]Insofar as the humans are concerned, there are no births. No, that's not quite correct. Some of the women were pregnant when they came here. The youngest of the children born on El Dorado is now a girl of seventeen."

""Something in the air , or the water, sir?"

""Could be, Grimes. Could be. But I'm a spaceman, not a quack. I wouldn't know. If it is, it must be something remarkably subtle. And you'd think that such an . . . agent? would affect the plants and the livestock as well as the people.""


""Do you think, sir, that they called us in so that we could . . . ? How can I put it? A sort of artificial insemination by donor? Only not so artificial."

""Mr. Grimes!" Daintree at once reverted to his normal manner. "I ask, no, I order, you to put such ideas out of your alleged mind at once. These people, and never forget it, are in their own estimation the aristocrats of the Galaxy. They want children to inherit their wealth, their titles. But they made it quite clear to me that such children must be sired by themselves, not by mongrel outsiders."" - pp 55-56

"["]You're away from your bloody ship, and all the stiffness and starchiness that are inevitable when the common herd puts on gold braid and brass buttons."

''You snobbish bitch! thought Grimes angrily.

""Sorry," she said casually, but you have to remember that we, on El Dorado, regard ourselves as rather special people."

""That reminds me," said Grimes," of two famous Twentieth Century writers. Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald said to Hemingway, quite seriously, 'The rich are different from us.' Hemingway replied, 'Yes. They have more money.'"

""So you read, John. You actually read. A spacefaring intellectual. I didn't know that there were any such."" - pp 80-81

I'm reminded of a Bulgarian expatriate friend of mine who I 1st met online or in a phone conversation a decade or more ago. This friend made a disparaging remark about Americans 'not reading' that was meant to dismiss a whole nation of 100s of millions of people as idiots. Naturally, I deflated this person's stupid European aristocratic stereotypes ASAP.

""And you mean to tell me that that huge building is for one person?"

""Isn't it time that you started to lose your petty-bourgeois ideas, John? I warn you, if you start spouting Thorsten Veblen at me on the subject of conspicuous waste I shall lose my temper. And as far as Marxism, there isn't any exploited proletariat on El Dorado, with the exception of the lower deck ratings aboard your ship."

""They aren't exploited. Anyhow, what about the people on the other worlds who've contributed to your fantastically high standard of living?"" - pp 82-83

"Conspicuous consumption is a term introduced by the Norwegian-American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen in his book "The Theory of the Leisure Class" published in 1899.

"The term refers to consumers who buy expensive items to display wealth and income rather than to cover the real needs of the consumer.

"A flashy consumer uses such behavior to maintain or gain higher social status. Most classes have a flashy consumer affect and influence over other classes, seeking to emulate the behavior.

"The result, according to Veblen, is a society characterized by wasted time and money." - http://www.conspicuousconsumption.org/

"what about the people on the other worlds"? The people of El Dorado wdn't want them on their planet!

""You mean that there's no privacy?" asked Grimes, shocked.

""I suppose you could put it that way."

""But . . . But I thought that this was a society of . . . aristocratic anarchists."

""That's a good way of putting it, John. And a true way." She lay back in the chair set before the huge screen, relaxed, but her fine features were thoughtful. "But can't you see?, neither the aristocrat nor the anarchist suffers from false shame. I can conceive of situations in which a petty bourgeois such as yourself would be agonizingly embarrassed if he knew that he was being watched. During copulation, for example, or defecation. But we . . ." In spite of her almost supine position she managed a delicate shrug. "But we . . . We know that it doesn't matter."" - p 97

"aristocratic anarchists" is an oxymoron insofar as "an-archy" means w/o rule & an aristocrat is defined by hier-archy. Being watched does matter if the activity so watched is likely to be used against the person watched.

Anyway, as yet-another SF bk that shows an appreciation for class issues I enjoyed this very much, as just a novel w/ a story n'at I also enjoyed it. As a sexual fantasy? Well, I prefer my sexual fantasies manifested in real life - bks just don't do it for me.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June 4, 2016 – Finished Reading
June 17, 2016 – Shelved
June 17, 2016 – Shelved as: sf

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