With Great Spurts Comes Great Goo: Jody Wallace's The Adventures of Mari Shu
The Adventures of Mari Shu by Jody Wallace is a hilarious, erotic sci-fi romance spoof wherein the titular (!) character embarks on a series of interactive journeys. You, the reader, control the fate of Mari Shu's romantic encounters. On the way, this series pokes loving fun at a variety of romance and SF tropes by way of raunchy erotic scenes and utterly bizarre situations.
I'm addicted to this series, which begins with Earthbound Passion and continues in Martian Conquest. Far Galaxies, the latest installment, came out last month.
To catch you up to speed, here's the series blurb:
Mari Shu, a factory drudge in the year 4000-something, must choose how to protect her sisters, her purity, and her own conscience in a bleak futuristic society that’s been polluted by smog, rampant commercialism, tacky jumpsuits, sexual perversions, unjust socioeconomics, interstellar travel, and inconsistent use of the Oxford comma.
The Adventures of Mari Shu is a geek woman's The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy, but also so much more. The series provides a humorous, insider look at sci-fi romance books from past to present, making it both a part of the genre while also transcending it. Plus, the seamlessly integrated social and literary commentary will make you think and laugh at the same time!
This is a series for readers who enjoy parody and satire of shows like Firefly and The 100. Mari Shu makes an appearance in just about every major science fiction franchise out there.
One big appeal for romance readers is that the series delivers a solid, female-centric adventure tale with plenty of man candy along the way. Despite Mari Shu's relentless innocence, she firmly drives the story. Her highly convenient, out-of-the-blue smarts are played for humor, but combined with the story's interactive structure, they result in an empowered, multi-talented character.
It sounds weird, I know, but when you see her in action it makes perfect sense. Mari Shu goes by the beat of her own kind of kooky logic. Check it out via the following scene from Far Galaxies:
Using her superior grasp of higher mathematics, she prepared to kill Ned first with a single tweak of the trigger. He had piggy eyes and was the most annoying.
“Don’t shoot!” Another RLC employee—nametagged Dred—inched out from behind a stack of pods. “I’m here to help.”
Dred, like Mari Shu, appeared to have been too poor to access the spa treatments that would have made him attractive. His broad chest, lean hips, dessert goo brown skin, carefully manicured facial hair, and dark, wiry locks that rioted in a six-inch poof around his head were reminiscent of earlier centuries. A hundred years ago, it had been all the rage to have big hair and dark skin. Now long, sleek locks and skin of orange were the new black.
The silver cybermech implant at his temple, however, was reminiscent only of forbidden technology.
And a touch of forbidden desire.
Indeed, Dred’s unfashionably sable appearance, rangy height, and facial hair kindled a tingle in Mari Shu’s hoohah. A tingle she hadn’t experienced since she’d noticed that cybermech guy on the ship to Mars.
Except this time she didn’t mistake it for poorly-rinsed apparel. She knew it for what it was.
During Mari Shu's adventures, you'll travel to alien planets and futuristic settings. You'll meet a huge cast of characters. Every imaginable erotic coupling graces the pages—and then some! While not every thread ends with an HEA, most do.
The stories use different kinds of humor, too many to count here. One example, though, is how the author breaks the fourth wall and inserts herself into the story in all kinds of funny ways. Here's one of my favorite passages from Far Galaxies, during a conversation between Mari and her sisters:
“The data scroll?” Mari Shu guessed, wishing she’d paid attention, too. However, she’d been stiff with horror, which wasn’t conducive to observing pertinent details like a device that provided whatever information the characters needed to move the scene forward. “If our people invented these convenient gatestar devices, why does it take years to get to New Terra? Why couldn’t they slingshot us into the proper galaxy?”
“That I don’t know.” Trish shook her head. “I’m not an astrophysicist.”
“What’s an astrophysicist?” Cassie asked.
All three women looked at each other and shrugged.
That one slays me every time!
The Adventures of Mari Shu is intensely, unabashedly erotic in nature. It's no-holds-barred and some readers may find the content absolutely shocking (I'm a reader with a penchant for the unusual and even I was gape-mouthed at times). Mari Shu's erotic journey is front and center, but there's mucho plot to go with it.
One notable aspect of this series is the raunchy humor factor. Heed my words, there's a lot of it. Bodily functions of all kinds run amok. Wild, over-the-top euphemisms for sex abound (a notable one concerns a log and a beaver dam). Pretty much nothing is sacred. What makes the series especially intriguing is that it delivers the raunchiness using a female gaze, like the comedy you'd find in the show Broad City. Mari Shu's humor is geared toward women, with a perspective that speaks directly to our interests.
I can't share the best bits since they're not safe for work or for that matter probably any kind of public display, but here's one from Earthbound Passion, which is tame enough to give you an idea:
As Mari Shu continued her homeward journey, the tall buildings, constructed completely of widgets like so much on Olde Earth, shrank to heights that ceased to block out the faded light of the likely dying sun. The odors of the slum increased, replacing ozone and desperation with poop and desperation. The hoverwalk ended in a crumple of poor maintenance. Mari Shu scuttled through the crowds going to or coming from work, all in grey coveralls except for the sexxorers, who got to wear whatever they wanted.
For a moment Mari Shu longed to wear a beautiful, sparkly rainbow jumpsuit with cut-out holes exposing her breasts like Big Bertha One Billion, a nice sexxorer whom she’d occasionally employed to babysit Trish and Cassie when they’d been younger. The rainbow hues in Big Bertha’s favorite outfit would set off the gold and red tones in Mari Shu’s unfashionably lush hair, like what she remembered of her mother...
As you can see, The Adventures of Mari Shu is steeped in familiar tropes and characters while also offering downright zany stories. To learn more about Jody Wallace's goolicious series, visit the information page at her site.
Have you read this series? Thoughts? If you have any more zany romance reading suggestions, leave them in the comments!
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express and is the Releases Editor for the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly.