Written in the 1950s, Jacqueline Susann’s science fiction novel Yargo was published posthumously in 1979.
Determined to have a perfect wedding day, Janet Cooper consults a psychiatrist. Having addressed every physical flaw within her power to correct, Janet now wishes to deal with a small mental flaw: that she is in love with an alien man far more attractive than poor dull David. This alien paragon may or may not exist.
It all began with an alien abduction.
Yargo is thirty-thousand years more advanced than Earth; it is the sole known world to have mastered space flight. Thus, when Martians became concerned about the link between human atomic tests and sunspots, it fell to Yargo to manage the affair before the unstable sun exploded. Only the most intelligent human would be suited to be the intermediary between highly evolved Yargo and savage Earth. Since Einstein was too old to survive space travel, the aliens chose Doctor Blount.
Although the aliens crewing the spacecraft did not know what Blount looked like, they did have a fair idea where he would be. This proved insufficient. Spotting a human on what they thought was the correct beach, they snagged the target in a tractor beam and carried them off in their flying saucer to Yargo, eight light-years away. Only when it was too late did the aliens discover they had abducted not the brilliant Blount, but the utterly useless Janet.
Dealing with an emotional savage like Janet is unthinkable. Fearing the consequences should Janet reveal (in her simple-minded way) the existence of Yargo, Yargo rules out returning Janet to Earth. Being stupendously advanced, the emotionless people of Yargo are far too humane to simply plunk Janet into a disintegration cube. This leaves but two alternatives: confining her for life in a space station or confining her for life on Mars.
Janet prefers being sent to Mars, as Mars is close to Earth and she might be able to escape and return home. The Martians are even less enthusiastic about being stuck with Janet than are the people of Yargo. Convincing them to accept Janet is time consuming, long enough for Janet to meet and fall in love with that paragon of planetary perfection, the Yargo of the planet Yargo. Eventually, Janet is sent off to Mars.
Yargo is incorrect to believe only they have space flight. There is a second space faring world. Thanks to Yargo’s misapprehension, Janet will soon become … LOVE-SLAVE OF THE BEE-MAN OF VENUS1!
Jacqueline Susann was famous as the author of such best-sellers as Valley of the Dolls(1966), The Love Machine (1969), and Once Is Not Enough (1973), which I have not read and about which I have no opinion. Wikipedia claims that the author was highly motivated to produce best-selling novels, as her history of cancer made a long life unlikely, and she wanted to ensure her institutionalized son would be cared for after she died.
Yargo is what is called in the industry a trunk novel, authorial juvenilia deemed unpublishable at the time. However, become famous enough and even the most amateurish early works may become potentially commercial. I would provide recent examples but I don’t need more hate mail from Heinlein fans.
Generally speaking, SF is often not particularly welcoming when outsiders deign to dabble in the genre, inasmuch as the result may be less bold innovation and more a reinvention of the wheel2. In this specific case, it would not be surprising to learn that Susann had read science fiction… at least the pulp variety of the sort popular in the 1930s. This is a stupendously awful book but it would not have been out of place on the pages of a Depression-era SF magazine3.
Susann may also have read various utopian books. The novel does follow certain utopian conventions, most particularly the need for superior cultures to endlessly claim that they are much better than the hapless outsider visiting them. The aliens are also prone to deliver long monologues about daily life on Yargo, which they do in circumstances where one would expect other matters (like having been kidnapped by Venusian bee-people) to distract.
It’s just too bad that everything we see of Yargo folks’ actions seriously undermines their claims of superiority. True superhumans probably would have given their space pilots a picture of the man they wanted to kidnap and they wouldn’t have ignored the existence of Extra-Yargo-Flying-Objects until it was too late.
Framing the novel as a comedy might have salvaged it, but the novel is dreadfully earnest.
Still, there are one or two bright notes. Perhaps the most striking is the manner in which the author conveys the conflict between what Janet wants in a husband and what Janet will actually get if she marries David. David can provide, he’s not a bee-man, and he does seem to love Janet as much as he might his favourite golf club or a faithful dog. He’s also patronizing, painfully conventional, rather timid, and exquisitely boring. Thus, it’s not surprising that the novel raises the possibility that rather than having been kidnapped by aliens, Janet simply suffered a psychotic break due to the prospect of settling for David. Which, if that was what happened, makes a lot of sense.
Even morbid curiosity likely does not justify reading this novel. However, if you are intrigued, used bookstores are your friend, as Yargo is out of print
1: So, the Bee-Man. I don’t have room to cram this into the main body of the review so have a footnote. The once-humanoid inhabitants of Venus were compelled by climate change to become giant bees, as one does. However, they find their new forms ugly and want to become humanoid again. A single mutant humanoid bee-man having survived to maturity, the Venusians plan to use kidnapped women like Janet to produce a new race of humanoid Venusians. There is no reason why, being in possession of spaceships as they are, that they needed to carry out this program in a manner calculated to antagonize Yargo.
2: Which despite the popularity of that phrase is hard to do and something for which there are very few examples.
3: I may be too harsh here, as the book has some similarity to Anne McCaffrey’s 1967 Restoree.