(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Collectively, the stories explore the strangeness of relations across the spectrum, from the sexual to the familial and religious. Throughout, Philip José Farmer insists that if people are to have any integrity as living beings, they must maintain and develop a respectful flexibility and bring their intelligence to bear in all their responses. The use of alien encounters and environments to explore complex problems of personal development and sexual maturity provides fantastic scenarios that have an acceptable familiarity about them. The stories themselves have cleverly ironic twists. Farmer cleverly unsettles readers and interrogates accepted assumptions.

“Mother” explores the destruction of a human mother-son relationship and its gradual replacement by an entirely alien situation. Even here, there are obligations that motherhood cannot ignore, and the story cleverly explores them. Although Eddie ultimately dissolves his ties with his controlling mother, his acceptance of his life as a vegetable mate raises the issue of viability and legitimacy in human relations. The anxiety and impotence Eddie feels in a human bond disappears under different circumstances, and Farmer makes clear that mothers and sons exist in many ways. If Eddie is happier inside his new mother and this mother is fully accepting of her new baby, then nothing can be said against this relationship, which is more caring and comforting than his officially sanctioned bond to Paula....

(The entire section is 533 words.)