UTS3(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

The start, straightforward gay cruiser looking for hitchhikers – except that it’s a woman and nothing is straightforward thereafter.

Set in northern Scotland, it traces an extraterrestrial who, manifesting in human form, drives around the Scottish countryside picking up male hitchhikers whom she drugs and delivers to her home planet where her compatriots mutilate and fatten them so that they can be turned into meat, as human meat, or “vodsel”, is a delicacy on the aliens’ barren homeworld.

The novel is darkly satirical. Its themes include sexism, big business, factory farming, and environmental decay; and reflects on more personal questions of sexual identity, humanity, snobbery, and mercy.

Isserley spends her spare time walking on the pebbled beach by her cottage, marveling at the beauty of Earth compared to her home world, where most beings are forced to live and toil underground, and the wealthy Elite live on the surface, but are still unable to tolerate being outside.

Eventually, she is raped by a hitchhiker, and is forced to kill him and leave his body. The experience shakes her, and she captures the next hitchhiker without interviewing him to assess the risk, failing to discover that she actually shares many inner thoughts with him, as well as the fact he would be missed by family (usually a key factor). In anger, she demands to see what happens to the vodsel during “processing,” where she watches as his tongue is cut out and he is castrated. Due to her claustrophobia of the subterranean structure, she has never seen this, and is shocked and disappointed at how fast it goes. She insists on seeing one actually killed and becomes hysterical at not being able to see the entire gruesome process.

Isserley is calmed down by Amlis, himself an Elite, whose beliefs are that vodsel should not be consumed, suggesting they are more similar to him and Isserley than she admits. After he departs to their home world, to share with their people what he had witnessed (the beauty of Earth, the treatment of vodsel), Isserley’s attitude changes. She begins to doubt her job, and is especially nonplussed after learning that others are more than willing to take her place. She captures one last victim, but feels guilty for doing so knowing that his dog has been left trapped in his van. Returning to where she found him, she frees the dog from the hitchhiker’s van.

Isserley decides to quit, and not return to the base of operations. She is forced to pick up one last hitchhiker, a man who insists on needing a ride to see his girlfriend give birth, and mentions reincarnation on the way. Driving faster than usual, Isserley gets into a car accident. Isserley’s body is essentially ruined while the hitchhiker is thrown through the window, still alive. Isserley ponders what will happen to her body, as she must activate an explosive that will destroy all evidence of the crash, and her. She thinks her atoms and particles will become dispersed in the environment and air, and is at peace with that. She then hits the switch.

UTSQuotations

“Shared suffering, she’d found, was no guarantee of intimacy.”
“Most distracting of all, though, was not the threat of danger but the allure of beauty.”
“The word troubled her, though. ‘Indispensable.’ It was a word people tended to resort to when dispensability was in the air.”
“The past was dwindling, like something shrinking to a speck in the rear-view mirror, and the future was shining through the windscreen, demanding her full attention.”
“she and they were all the same under the skin, weren’t they?”
“In the end, though, vodsels couldn’t do any of the things that really defined a human being. They couldn’t siuwil, the couldn’t mesnishtil,they had no concept of slan.”
“They both sat in silence for the rest of the journey, as if conscious of having let each other down.”
“The variety of shapes, colours and textures under her feet was, she believed, literally infinite. It must be. Each shell, each pebble, each stone had been made what it was by aeons of submarine or subglacial massage. The indiscriminate, eternal devotion of nature to its numberless particles had an emotional importance for Isserley; it put the unfairness of human life into perspective.”
“Strange how a specimen like him, well cared for, healthy, free to roam the world, and blessed with a perfection of form which would surely have allowed him to breed with a greater selection of females than average, could still be so miserable. By contrast, other males, scarred by neglect, riddled with diseases, spurned by their kind, were occasionally known to radiate a contentment that seemed to arise from something more enigmatic than mere stupidity.”
“Needs could not bully her.”
“MERCY. It was a word she’d rarely encountered”
“Nothing happened, and time stubbornly refused to pass.”
“You know,’ Amlis went on, ‘Some water fell out of the sky not so long ago.’ His voice was a little higher than usual, vulnerable with awe. ‘It just fell out of the sky. In little droplets, thousands of them close together. I looked up to see where they were coming from. They seemed to be materializing out of nowhere. I couldn’t believe it. Then I opened my mouth to the sky. Some droplets fell straight in. It was an indescribable feeling. As if nature was actually trying to nurture me.”
“it was already tomorrow. She should have known from the beginning that it would end like this.”
“I sometimes think that the only things really worth talking about are the things people absolutely refuse to discuss.”
“Unreality was swirling all around her like the delirious miasmas”
“The indiscriminate, eternal devotion of nature to its numberless particles had an emotional importance for Isserley.

UTS2“ISSERLEY ALWAYS DROVE straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up. She was looking for big muscles: a hunk on legs. Puny, scrawny specimens were no use to her.”
“Isserley walked along the path the generations of sheep-flocks had made, up the tiers of the hill. In her mind, she was already”
“was a female. Isserley wasn’t interested in females, at least not in that way. Let them get picked up by someone else. If the hitcher was male, she usually went back for another look, unless he was an obvious weakling. Assuming he’d made a reasonable impression on her,”
“oh how she wondered, what she looked like to him, in his alien innocence.”
“The walls shrugged themselves loose from their foundations and slid towards the centre of the room, as if attracted by the struggle. The ceiling, a massive rectangular slab of concrete furrowed with fluorescent white, also shuddered loose and loomed bdown on her.”
“Their consciousness was rudimentary.”
“protective of his gleaming domain, beavering away in it alone like an obsessed scientist in a humid and luridly lit laboratory.”
“Vess Incorporated had simply dug them out of one hole and buried them in another”
“could indicate the cocky self-awareness of a male in prime condition.”
“behaving as if his actions didn’t need defending. Typical rich kid, typical pampered little tycoon. None of their actions ever needed defending, did they?”
“She couldn’t quite believe it, even after all these years. It was a phenomenon of stupendous and unjustifiably useless extravagance. Yet here it lay, soft and powdery, edibly pure.”
“Men! Armchair heroes the lot of them, while women were sent out to do the dirty work.”

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