Friday, June 16, 2023

Exotic Adventures of Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg would become one of the grand masters of science fiction but he had an interesting and colourful second career as a pulp sleaze writer. In 1958 he was making a name for himself in science fiction when the market suddenly dried up. The science fiction magazines for which he wrote creased publication. The market for paperback sci-fi was extremely small at that time. In order to survive Silverberg wrote huge numbers of sleaze novels but before that he wrote stories for men’s adventure magazines. Specifically for one called Exotic Adventures. The men’s adventure magazines were known for their glossy slick presentation but Exotic Adventures was one of the more low-rent examples. Silverberg ended up writing almost all of the content.

Exotic Adventures of Robert Silverberg, edited by Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle, contains all of Silverberg’s stories for this magazine.

A lot of these are article non-fiction articles, although one suspects that Silverberg had no time whatsoever for research so they’re probably mainly fiction.

Silverberg was one of the best writers of sleaze novels. The much shorter format in which he had to work for Exotic Adventures didn’t really suit him. Silverberg liked us to get to know what made his characters tick, and what inner demons they had to face. He just can’t do that in these very short stories.

Most of the stories hardly even qualify as fully developed short stories. They’re just vignettes, with some sleaze content.

That’s not to say that there’s no entertainment value to be found here. Some of these tales are amusing and the best of them are pleasingly outrageous. It is however a good idea not to set your expectations too high for this collection.

The men’s adventure genre that started to take off in a big way at the end of the 50s has its own disreputable shameless charm. It’s a genre that can be lots of fun.

I don’t think there’s a single story in this collection that you would get away with today. Some modern readers will be heading for the fainting couches. But if you’re a fan of the men’s adventure genre you probably know what to expect and you’ll enjoy yourself.

The Stories

The first story, Campus Hellcat, is the odd man out. It’s just a sex story with no adventure but it does have an amusing twist.

Safari of Death
takes the reader to Equatorial Africa where a man discovers that while lions are dangerous women are much more dangerous.

I Was a Tangier’s Smuggler is the tale of a man’s introduction to the smuggling racket. He’s not smuggling narcotics or anything like that. He’s smuggling cigarettes, a very lucrative proposition at the time. He also has an extra item of cargo, a Moroccan girl.

In the case of Attacked by Monster Crabs the title says it all. A naked romp on a beach does indeed lead to an attack by monster crabs.

Trapped by Mau Mau Terror is a blood-drenched tale of Kenya in the days of the Mau Mau Rebellion. Lots of terror, and of course there’s time for sex as well.

Bride of the Jaguar God is better, with a nasty twist to it. A secret cult of jaguar god worshippers is discovered deep in the jungles of southern Mexico. There is a terrible price to pay for anyone who witnesses their secret rites.

Nudist Paradise on the French Riviera is an account of a visit to an island nudist camp, with some sex thrown in.

Tahiti, Lusty Island of Untamed Women, is about an American ex-serviceman who has adopted the life of a beachcomber in Tahiti. It’s a life that suits him - no work and plenty of play with a succession of willing Tahitian girls (who don’t believe in long-term commitments but do believe in free love).

Egypt’s City of Prostitutes is non-fiction (or claims to be) and the title pretty much tells you what it’s all about. It’s a shock-horror exposé.

Radiant Jade: The Chinese Mata Hari obviously concerns a Chinese lady spy who uses sex as a tool of espionage and serves whichever masters seem to her to be most advantageous. It’s a tale of sex, cruelty, torture and betrayal.

Saba, Land of Love-Starved Women takes place on an island in the Caribbean. On this island the women outnumber the men by two to one, so naturally the women are all man-hungry. They’re all available, which sounds like a paradise for men. But there are unexpected hazards for men. This is one of the best stories in the collection.

Opium Den in Vietnam
is a surprisingly non-hysterical account of opium usage in Saigon. A young American finds opium to be surprisingly pleasant if used in moderation and finds to his delighted surprise that the best opium dens offer women as well.

Island of Exiled Women is amusingly outrageous. A man is shipwrecked on the island of Luanape in the Pacific. This is (so we are assured) a prison island. It’s a prison island for young women who have committed one of any number of sexual offences. There are no guards because there’s no way off the island. Just the female prisoners. Two or three hundred of them, all young and beautiful and stark naked. And since there are no men on the island all these women are incredibly man-hungry. The shipwrecked mariner thinks he’s found Paradise, until he finds out what it’s like being one man having to satisfy a couple of hundred sex-starved girls.

The Arabian Slave Girl Racket is an article about an American working for six weeks in Saudi Arabia. He is offered a slave girl and it’s an attractive deal. He can buy her for $2,000 and the slave trader will buy her back in six weeks for $1,500. She’s expensive because she’s a virgin but the slave-trader assumes that when he buys her back she will be minus her virginity. The American of course knows that slavery is wrong but the girl is so beautiful and surely there’s no harm in it if he refrains from touching her. The trouble is that the girl is very upset when he doesn’t want to sleep with her and he can’t stand seeing a pretty girl upset, so the upshot is that after six weeks her virginity is indeed merely a dim memory.

In A Temporary Husband in Ladakh an American finds himself in a remote Himalayan country in which all the women have at least three husbands. And sometimes they’re happy to have a fourth husband on a temporary basis.

Wolf Children of India is a rather grim article about children raised by wolves.

I Watched the Secret Sex Rites of Uganda is pretty self-explanatory and doesn’t have any real twists to keep things interesting.

A Drinking Man’s Guide to Europe is just an article about where to buy cheap booze.

In Love Hungry Girls of Japan two Americans are kept as sex slaves by the ama, the Japanese naked girl pearl divers. It’s not as much fun as they’d expected it to be.

Juaraz, Sin City Across the Border article is just an article about sex and sin across the border.

I Escaped from the Soviet Slave Camp is a nothing story about a political prisoner in Hungary.

Final Thoughts

A wildly uneven collection of oddities, but fun if you’re in the mood for the literary equivalent of a beer and popcorn movie.

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