Sexploits that fail to make the Earth move
YOU have to hand it to George Adams - for the title at least. The Great Hong Kong Sex Novel is guaranteed to have sweaty fingers eagerly slipping between its covers searching for smut, to the sound of cash registers taking in dollars.
The development of Adams' books is fascinating, from dry academia (his first book was a volume of essays, Transactional Analysis in Education ) to pop psychology (Games Hong Kong People Play ) and their fictional equivalent in Wicked Hong Kong Stories. Some may see it as a descent into pulp fiction; others will recognise it as an ascent into the money-spinners.
And now we've arrived at the novel - the sexual adventures of an expat lawyer in Hong Kong.
The book is a series of linked escapades where Nigel Trelford meets girl, courts girl, fondles girl and does/doesn't have sex with her.
It really shouldn't be called a novel, as there is no character development, little drama, and a limp plot which rears up apolog etically half-way through.
What The Great Hong Kong Sex Novel lacks most of all is imagination - in both its writing and content. Few books are so limited in scope and style.
Take the initial sexual explorations, for example. Each time it's a tangle of the same body parts: ''My knees gripped her right leg, while her right hand reached as far as physically possible up my right thigh''; ''her leg straddled my left thigh''; ''her own soft thighs were a tactile delight, virginal, puerile and willing''.
Not only does this have all the eroticism of a car mechanic's manual, but it's like being stuck in the missionary position for one's entire sexual career.
The only drama is how far the girl will let Trelford go and whether the reader will be told about it. Adams is quick with the line ''I'll spare you the details'', probably a blessing in disguise if the repetitive nature of the heavy petting is anything to go by.
For a book with so much sex, it is remarkably unerotic, tending towards lurid adolescent male fantasies and cliches. But then the sex is only there to give Adams another opportunity to peddle his insights into Hong Kong life.
The trouble is they're the same observations he flogged in Wicked Hong Kong Stories and The Games Hong Kong People Play.
More worrying is the offensiveness of many of the attitudes. Adams appears convinced that only unremittingly negative observations are worth recording.
Thus, Chinese girls always appear willing and available, though usually for extra-sexual transactions (money, shopping, marriage), Thais love oral sex, Japanese are kinky, and Filipinas are just good-time Catholic playthings. Expat women are blissfully unaware of their men folk straying, and expat men seem blissfully unaware of their womenfolk.
Adams may argue that Hong Kong is racist and sexist, so he's only reflecting the territory's mores, but it's a poor excuse.
If The Great Hong Kong Sex Novel set out to satirise Hong Kong sexuality, it has only succeeded in glamorising its most unpleasant aspects.
One of the main essences of comic writing is developing situations beyond the everyday and into the ridiculous, bizarre and embarrassing.
Adams shows he's capable of this at the book's climax, in which Trelford, dressed as a woman, is chased across Hong Kong. But elsewhere he drops a potential comic situation as soon as it has been set up in a headlong rush towards expounding further cliches.
Barring a couple of amusing comments and the concluding chase, The Great Hong Kong Sex Novel is NOT funny. In fact, it's just plain dull. The ''great'' is non-existent, the ''Hong Kong'' references trivial, the ''sex'' mechanical and the ''novel'' undernourished.
Ironically, Adams manages to write the book's obituary perfectly, in its epilogue and under the guise of a fictional psychologist: ''I have read Mr Trelford's Great Hong Kong Sex Novel with a growing sense of frustration. These morbid meanderings are totally unconvincing however much fun Mr Trelford had in writing them. In the end, as we all know dealing with such patients, he has deceived no-one but himself.''