Review by Joey Madia

This wild, well-paced ride of a book, first published in 1986, was the debut novel from poet, playwright, and academic John Gartland. The novel centers around Brian J. Carver, a bored and seemingly un-remarkable British civil servant with a Literature degree (a rich tradition in storytelling that Gartland makes anew). His is a life spent shuffling papers, writing memos, and devoting as much time as possible to his writing endeavors on the government’s bill.

The whole thing is thrown into motion (after a mysterious scene in Chapter 1 detailing various global gatherings and turmoil that later proves to be a flashback) when the Assistant Senior Inspector decides to transfer our man Carver to a new department, where he can “utilise his talents as a communicator” by “drawing up new forms, modifying old forms and dealing with correspondence about existing forms” (p. 25).

Amid Carver’s settling in to his new position in the familiar atmosphere of paperwork purgatory (including a series of maneuvers to outwit his boss, Mr. Withers), events on the global scale are ramping up and the Zonex Corporation is introduced—offering a self-assembly clock designed by one of the most famous civil servants of them all—Albert Einstein.

Zonex turns out to be wide-spread and all too insidious in its offerings, a fact we find out through the expansion of the cast of characters to include the button-down Howard Hooper (another struggling writer) and his sexually adventurous wife Helen, and the fetish-film porn auteur Don Varnier, who watches their kindky amorousness through his self-assembled Zonex binoculars and seeks out Helen for his films (he later directs a scene between two women in a bathtub full of broken eggs).

Interested yet? It only gets more deliciously twisted from here, with the arrival of packages from “Far Out Travel” that pull together the various stories into a unified whole. [Turns out that mild-mannered Carver is a “member of a secret society of visionaries” (p. 85) going back to his college days]. He brings his best friend, Arthur (think Jeremy Pevin or Jon Favreau sidekick types) along for the ride.

Carver’s involvement with a femme fatale named Suzanna is another lascivious layer of the mayhem.

If you are a fan of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or the Illuminatus trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson (or, dare I say, my own Minor Confessions of an Angel Falling Upward) then Orgasmus is required reading. The back stories of characters like Peter Ignatius Gesto (the head of Far Out Travel) are entertaining and pull in a terrific mix of political history, pop culture, and spiritual philosophy featuring those darlings of ancient and secret orders, the Knights Templar (they figure into non [semi?] fiction books I’ve been reading lately, such as Second Messiah, Hiram Key, and Secret Germany—the kind of stuff that sets writers like Dan Brown and Brad Meltzer—and myself—all alight with inspiration).

My father and father-in-law, who were NCOs in Naval and Air Force intelligence, respectively, have always maintained that most governments are too stupid to engineer big conspiracies, but that still leaves room for the global banking cabals and their pseudo-governmental arms (Bilderberg, TLC, CFR, etc.)—the types of shadow government string-pullers “illuminated” by Conspiracy enthusiasts like David Icke and Alex Jones.

Chapter 20 caused a scribbling-in-the-margins, highlighting frenzy for me, as Gartland really ramps things up on the way to Orgasmus’ explosive climax. Fans of Wilson’s Illuminatus writings will be in conspiracy-fiction Heaven here.

Orgasmus (Organisation for Salvation of Mankind, Universal, Secret) is one of those good old-fashioned anarchist groups that were so fun to write about before 9/11, after which anything to do with terrorism and bombings became all but verboten. Still in all, despite the fact that I threw out my entire collection of Tom Clancy books on September 12, 2001, when that kind of fiction was no longer “fun,” Orgasmus is presented as tongue in cheek and a gentle reminder that we can (and should) still laugh at things like this.

Author: John Gartland
Title: Orgasmus
Publisher: Lizardville Productions