Submitted by Katie Dickson
Jean Auelâ€™s first novel in the series, Clan of the Cave Bear, was recommended to me by my uncle when I was just starting high school. He gave it to me with a warning. â€œUm,â€ he said, â€œI started to read the rest of the books, but they got kind of romance-novel-ish.â€ He was clearly embarrassed. â€œThe sequels are kind of smutty.â€
Telling a young lady that the book she is about to read is not only good but contains plenty of sex is like handing a young man a Playboy. I immediately checked out each Earthâ€™s Children novel from my local library.
Earthâ€™s Children should be divided into two categories: Cave Bear and everything else. Cave Bear is a marvelous experiment, richly detailed and researched and endlessly fascinating. The main character, blonde Homo sapien Ayla, is adopted by a pack of Neanderthals (called Flat-Heads by humans) and must learn to survive first among the group and then on her own. Talk about female empowerment! Ayla follows the classic romance novel heroine pattern: sheâ€™s buxom, blonde, had a tough childhood, is great with animals, a natural healer, and is in possession of a Magical Vajayjay. She also has a pet lion.
Unfortunately for the plot (great for Ayla, bad for readers), in book two (Valley of Horses) she discovers cunnilingus in the form of Jondalar, a Brad Pitt wannabe with a huge schlong. Jondalar lives to hunt, eat out, and stick his penis into things. From then on, the Earthâ€™s Children series reads like a summation of past events sprinkled with technical sexual how-tos. Itâ€™s not too much of a stretch to say Valley of Horses was the first erotica I ever read.
Props go to Auel for the way the build-up is handled. Readers get parallel points of view, with every other chapter from either Aylaâ€™s or Jondalarâ€™s perspective. As cookie-cutter as both the characters seem to be, there is a little depth to be found in these pages, as Jondalar roams across the known world in search of a wife. In the process, he goes down on lots and lots of women, and Ayla tames animals and learns to be self-sufficient. She also basically invents modern hunting. Not too shabby!
Auel is guilty of breaking the Golden Rule of sex scenes: use them to move the story forward or develop the characters, or donâ€™t use them at all. A few of the sex scenes are helpful, necessary, even, in understanding her characters; most are simply fluff. â€œSmut,â€ as my uncle said. But what fantastic smut!
I must have read Valley of Horses a dozen times. Even now, the book falls open precisely to the chapters full of the purplest prose. Taken as a whole, Valley of Horsesâ€”and its subsequent sequelsâ€”is a fairly boring read, tedious and full of irritating adjectives. But if you read it for the good stuff, you wonâ€™t be disappointed. And at the age of fourteen or so, I couldnâ€™t get enough.