"A Gourmet in Hyperspace" is a novel subtitled What if we all became accustomed to act in accord with science and reason?
The action takes place in an alien universe called u, in which people are accustomed to to act in accord with science and reason.
Alenby, age 45, is an American stunt driver and gourmet who makes frequent visits to France to indulge his leaning to traditional French cuisine. The story begins when Alenby, about to board a flight to France, unwittingly traverses hyperspace to find himself in u.
Soon after his arrival in u, Alenby becomes aware of the two most important consequence of u-peoples' compliance with science and reason: First, the cruel, filthy, unhealthful and uneconomic practice of eating food-like substances of animal origin (Substances for short) is prohibited by law, and the law--Prohibition, as it is called--is enforced by the international food police, PROFATPOL. Second, perhaps because of their lean vegan diet and active life-style, u-people are noticeably smaller than he is.
Ada, age 63, is a lubricious American woman who has so many lovers she must wear a minicomputer--a compulocket--to keep track of them. She is president of a prominent advocacy group, based in Washington DC, that promotes the extension of Prohibition to further reduce the incidence of CHAOS AND OUCH. Her ambition is to be appointed Substance Czarina in the next administration, but realizes she will not succeed without help from influential political commentator Willa 't Hellenbach.
Ada is drawn to Alenby because of his relatively great body size. Having contrived to be seated beside Alenby en route to Paris, Ada persuades him to share a summer vacation at her pied à terre in the hamlet Chezeley in Central France.
Following their arrival in France, the couple travel to Chezeley in Ada's tomato-red Mercedes SEX automobile with Alenby at the wheel. Like all civilian cars in u, the Mercedes is electric powered and is mounted, not on rubber tires but on technologically advanced wheels called tweels. Fossil fueled, rubber-mounted cars, or "stinkpots" are faster and are permitted for use by PROFATPOL agents only.
Concerned that her political reputation might be damaged if she were found in company with a person who because of his personal size might be suspected of being a Substance user, Ada has chosen to travel back roads and to stay at a small, little-known hotel-restaurant called Le Gardon where she is unlikely to be recognized. She is disconcerted therefore to encounter an acquaintance from 40 years ago.
Olympe, age 45, French, is the manager of Le Gardon. She is a relatively tall, dignified woman who in youth was the cosseted but unloved daughter of the Paris branch of the wealthy, aristocratic but ultimately viciously criminal Le Montrachet family. After her parents and close relatives were arrested and jailed for life, Olympe was sent to live with distant relatives who made her a virtual slave to their restaurant business.
Olympe at once recognizes Ada as her beloved governess and mother substitute with whom at age 5 she began to learn English.
Ada is not kindly disposed to Olympe, because she is unable to disentangle the memory of her as a child from that of her odious parents. Ada suspects (correctly) that Olympe is still mixed up with crime, perhaps with some shadier elements of PROFATPOL, and she wants to have nothing to do with her.
Alenby has a different reaction. He is deeply impressed by Olympe's elegant manners and feels the beginning of an emotional bond to her.
As Ada and Alenby are about continue their way to Chezeley, Olympe advises them with the utmost urgency not to take the short route by turning right at the bridge, but to go straight. Both Ada and Alenby interpret this as a warning that a PROFATPOL roadblock awaits them on the short route. They agree to go straight.
However, Alenby has second thoughts. If Olympe is really mixed up with PROFATPOL, their following her advice might put her in danger of reprisal....
Now read on.
1.17 An Unlawful Evasion
1.17.1 Alenby and Ada Escape PROFATPOL
On back roads between Pouzay and Chezelet
Late morning Thursday 3 April 1987
Contrary to the solemn assurance he'd given Ada only seconds earlier, Alenby did not go straight after crossing the bridge. He turned right on to the narrow strip of gravel that led to a near-certain confrontation with the minions of PROFATPOL!
Ada screamed a protest, coughed on vomit rising in her throat. In a hideous delusion she heard the voice of her nemesis, Willa 't Hellenbach, calmly ticking off the carges: ...with this latest indiscretion in company with a dimensionally disadvantaged playboy user whose name has not been released pending charges, Ada Lynch has written fin to what seemed a promising career... founder and president of the advocacy group XPROW!...likely pick for a key Cabinet position...all frittered away.... Ada lapsed into a frenzy, shouting epithets, frantically clawing at the steering wheel--
Alenby flipped on the stinkpot sound simulator, and seeing that fail to bring her to her senses he back-handed her a loose-fingered whip-slash slap across the face.
After a stunned pause, fingering the welt--"Thanks for that," she said, "I think I was about to lose it...."
They spotted the block a little less than a kilometer past the first turnoff: A sleek black ambulance-body Citroën athwart the road, three black-uniformed figures lounging in front.
The situation called for a tight U-turn, a maneuver beyond the ordinary driver, but Alenby made it look easy: dab of acceleration, jerk of the emergency brake lever, controlled 180 skid…. In the rear-view TV they glimpsed the PROFATPOL agents leaping for cover from the gravel stones rocketing from under the Mercedes’ churning rear tweels, the Citroën looming larger, battered, windshield crumbling. At the last instant the tweels caught, and the roadblock receded in a cloud of blue smoke.
Ada started laughing again--it was so funny! I'm getting hysterical again, she told herself, so snap out of it!
She snapped out of it. "Do be careful, Alenby," she cried. "They hunt in pairs—there’s the other one!"
The black 1960s Peugeot lurched on to the gravel ahead with its flashers flashing and siren braying. The driver’s eyes bulged as he strove to avoid the head-on crash. A heart-beat later the Peugeot lay nose down in a ditch now far behind, one wheel cocked up at an odd angle, spinning idly.
"That was…magnificent," Ada breathed.
"Oh, one must give the PROFATPOL driver credit, too," said Alenby, flipping the SSS to OFF. "Chicken is like chess; its beauty is revealed through the clash of peers." He executed a 270 turn--nonchalantly, as a master chef might flip a buckwheat crêpe--to put the Mercedes on track to loop back to D18 beyond the roadblock site, and thence to Chezelet.
"Yes," said Ada, "but what I find magnificent is not your driving, impressive as it is, nor your sangfroid in chicane—"
"Excuse me, that’s chicken. Not chicane, nor its synonym chicanery, denoting deception by artful subterfuge or sophistry and hence closer to your intended meaning, but chicken, the art form of we merry band of stuntmen.
"To the gourmet, however," he went on, seemingly having entered a trance state while maintaining total control of the vehicle, "chicken is a bird that reaches its most exalted form in the patte bleue of Bresse, the notable characteristic of which paragon of poultry is that when oven-roasted in the manner of Restaurant Mail, in Bourg-en-Bresse, its skin fries in a thin layer of subcutaneous fat so that in the end its steamy flesh is encased in a friable nut-brown carapace that connoisseurs of fowl find ineffably pleasing."
The brute bellow of the stinkpot sound system, the acute awareness of danger to body and reputation, the sting of Alenby's blow, and now his voluptuous paean to a most taboo of Substances--those shocks combined to sweep away Ada's commitment to science and reason. A goofy facial expression--slack jaw, eyes half closed--announced her epiphany: Out with ambitions to tame CHAOS AND OUCH, to be Substance Czarina. Out with tiresome Willa 't Hellenbach. In with pleasurable sensation, mindless in the consequences. In with patte bleue....
She felt a familiar frisson. Out of the usual context, but she recorded it to her compulocket anyway. Force three at least, maybe force four....
Aleby's plummy baritone barged into her inward moment. "Oh oh, there’s another one tailing us. I’m afraid we’ll have to hustle…."