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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

To Hell with the Ugly

Boris Vian

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To purchase To Hell with the Ugly

Title: To Hell with the Ugly
Author: Boris Vian
Genre: Novel
Written: 1948 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 156 pages
Original in: French
Availability: To Hell with the Ugly - US
To Hell with the Ugly - UK
To Hell with the Ugly - Canada
Et on tuera tous les affreux - Canada
To Hell with the Ugly - India
Et on tuera tous les affreux - France
Wir werden alle Fiesen killen - Deutschland
  • French title: Et on tuera tous les affreux
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Paul Knobloch
  • Originally published under the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan

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Our Assessment:

B- : agreeably bizarre

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       To Hell with the Ugly is yet another of the pulp thrillers Boris Vian wrote under the pen name of 'Vernon Sullivan'. Setting the story in California, Vian does his best to imitate the local hard-boiled style of the times -- it was written in 1948 -- and he's pretty good at it. He certainly starts things off fairly promisingly, with an opening paragraph that reads:

     Taking a smack on the head is nothing. Even being drugged twice during the course of the same evening is something a guy can live with. But stepping outside for a bit of fresh air and then all of a sudden coming to in your birthday suit in a room with a naked woman, well I'd say that's when things started to get weird. As for what happened next ...
       The narrator, Rocky Bailey, is a sporty type concerned about his appearance and fitness ("I've dedicated myself solely to athletics") who nevertheless enjoys nights out at places like the Zooty Slammer; he's fortunate that his parents are well off -- and apparently give him all the spending money he needs. Rocky isn't your typical noir hero, however -- he's too well-built, for one, and still extremely young. And while he enjoys flirting with the ladies and taking them for a spin on the dance floor ... well:
Christ Almighty, I've made up my mind ... shit ... I have to confess: I've decided to remain a virgin until I'm twenty.
       Because he's so into sports he's apparently quite the physical specimen; that not only attracts the women, but also a more sinister character, which is why Rocky finds himself getting conked on the head and then coming to in a room with a beautiful naked woman. Yes, the idea is for them to have sex -- but it's not for seedy voyeuristic purposes. No, the purposes are of a different seedy nature -- as Rocky finds out when he refuses to break his vow of abstinence, which leads them to drag him off and get what they're after in very humiliating fashion.
       Once his adventure is over -- he wakes up in an orange grove --, Rocky wants to know who the hell did this to him, and why. When he finds a dead body back at the Zooty Slammer when he makes his way back there, it's obvious that something very strange is going on.
       It turns out, too, that beautiful women have been going missing -- and as Rocky digs deeper, with some official help, he learns that a madman named Dr.Markus Schutz is behind it all -- "a man who abducts people to make them sleep together", and worse. Indeed, Schutz is a mad scientist sort who is trying to create a super race (of beautiful people), and employs radical methods in going about it. Rocky encounters some of the results of his experimentation (including one fortunately less than perfect specimen, whose flaws help Rocky along) and tries to get to Schutz, first at the sprawling laboratory he has, then on the island he's retreated to.
       This gets to be pretty whacky stuff, as Vian veers between noir and science fiction (and, yes, porn), with a few unexpected twists as not everything turns out to be quite what it seemed -- though in a story like this, plausibility doesn't matter much anyway. By the end, even the US Marines are involved -- really involved .....
       In part just an excuse to parade around a lot of beautiful naked and lusting women, To Hell with the Ugly is nevertheless more than just a bit of softish porn dressed up as a thriller of sorts. Vian's sense of humor helps, and he's surprisingly good at capturing 1940s California. Sure, it's all a bit thin, with a story that jerks around in a variety of directions, with most of the 'action' a bit forced, and way too much that is entirely unrealistic (with Vian too lazy to try to at least make it sound a bit more believable). Still, To Hell with the Ugly is appealingly frivolous and very entertainingly bizarre.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 August 2011

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To Hell with the Ugly: Reviews: Boris Vian: Other books by Boris Vian under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Boris Vian lived 1920 to 1959.

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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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