British author P.J. Goddard's first novel, Libidan is a dry, witty and well-researched social commentary on the modern world's biotechnological state of affairs. Goddard's funny but understated tone fits his topic -- the discovery of a naturally-occurring stimulant that affects, quite profoundly, the human female sex drive -- perfectly. A little bit mystery, a little bit thriller, a little bit love story and a lot of laughs, Libidan takes on anti-vivisectionists, the pharmaceutical industry, men, women, white-collar, blue-collar, cops, criminals -- nobody is free from the stroke of Goddard's satirical pen.
Bill Kennedy, a slacking researcher at Asper Pharmaceuticals, has been resting on the laurels of an antibiotic discovery he made five years ago, back when he was fresh out of school and new with the company. Already called to task several times for his lackadaisical attitude toward punctuality and general work ethic, Bill is riding a fine line now that his department -- the Minority Diseases Unit -- has got a shot at the new lab being built at Asper headquarters. Bill's archnemesis at work, Lester Mold, has been working on a therapy for a rare alpha-hydroxylase deficiency, and his impending success threatens Bill's status as department golden boy. So with only a day to mock up results for months' worth of inactivity, Bill makes a brilliant but accidental discovery while working with a long overdue hormone fragment. When Bill's lab assistant, the mind-numbingly beautiful Angela Marks, gets a whiff of the chemical Bill's cooking, her libido goes into overdrive. Bill, being the only male around at the moment, is the confused but grateful object of her supercharged attentions. Unfortunately, the whole thing is captured by Asper security cameras. Bill, rather than being promoted for his serendipitous find, is quietly fired.
The suddenly jobless Ph.D. absconds with the remaining chemical solution on his way out of Asper for the last time. Outfitting his outsized house with a cobbled-together home laboratory, Bill Kennedy decides to go into business for himself, hoping to help post-menopausal women with their low libidos. But after a guilty episode with his sister's best friend, and a disastrous orgiastic mixup at a local disco, Bill decides that the potential for abuse is too great and that he must destroy every last trace of Libidan. Unfortunately, his clumsy entrepreneurial attempts have attracted some very unwanted attention -- from a murderous drug dealer with a nasty skin disorder, from a rigidly determined veteran police officer, from an overenthusiastic animal rights group (who erroneously believe Bill to be performing unspeakable acts with his research guinea pigs), even from the enigmatic, seldom-seen CEO of Asper Pharmaceuticals.
Libidan is a top-notch comedy of errors, with the hapless young researcher trying to right a host of unintended wrongs. Goddard's dialogue is spot-on, and the eccentric characterizations of his motley cast are a delight. With luck, Libidan, currently available only in the U.K., will make it across the pond on a foreign rights deal. And may P.J. Goddard write another novel as head-shakingly funny as this -- soon.