Gray Matters-William Hjortsberg (1971)

If you’re looking for something different here it is. In the 25th century humans are just brains in a depository. Almost the entire race are just cerebromorphs. In order to get into a perfect body in what is supposed to be paradise outside you have to go through levels to reach enlightenment.

It all started in the 70’s with twelve year old Skeets Kalbfleischer. He was the only survivor of a plane that was hit by lightning. There was just a dim spark of life left in his destroyed body. A NASA engineeer employed in secret space research did the operation.

Every brain is connected to a central computer or control as they search for the path to enlightenment.  Brains are interchangable. Skeets has been there for two hundred years and never gone beyond the mental age of twelve. Thinking he’ll never mature, control decides he needs a sexual awakening.

They feed him a dream sequence with an actress named Vera. Her whole life has been operations and plastic surgery and organ transplants to keep herself young even though she lived to a hundred. Skeets thinks she’s a fourteen year old girl.

Another resident, sculpter Obu Itubi, gets access to a maintence robot. disconnects his brain, puts it in a new body and takes off. Not that many people live on the surface. The continents were destroyed in the 80’s in a thirty minute war.

The path to enlightenment means a total loss of identity including gender. Obu meets a woman who has never been a cerebromorph. Before they can start repopulating the world, Obu gets drunk, commits murder and is recaptured.

There’s a lot of graphic sex when the story concentrates on Vera and her various lusts and kinks. That’s probably a big reason the book won the Playboy Editorial award for Best New Fiction Contributor in 1971. Hjortsberg hit it big with 1978’s “Falling Angel” which was made into the 1987 movie “Angel Heart.”

William Hjortsberg

About vintage45

I'm a big fan of vintage books,movies,TV shows and music. I encourage everyone to patronize your local used book/record store and pick up some of the good stuff. My posts are capsule reviews of some favorites that you may want to investigate. The albums posted aren't really reviews but items from my collection that are still available. I try and point out highlights of each one and let the music speak for itself. Thanks to all for checking out the blog.
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