Available June 22, 2010
Larry Doyle is the author of I Love You Beth Cooper and a former writer on the team that weekly brings us The Simpsons. It should come as no surprise then that his latest novel – Go Mutants – is hilarious. Humorous even. Side-splittingly funny, to borrow a phrase older than LOL, which is fitting since most of the action takes place in an ersatz, alternate-reality fifties-esque reality.
Go Mutants is much more than a funny science fiction tale though. It is a glorious, messy, convoluted mish-mash and send up of:
Cold war America
Fifties and sixties era music
Sexual repression in puritanical America
And fifties era B grade horror and science fiction films.
Every Single One of them.
Literally. I’ve got a pretty good head and memory for most of the classic films in those genres – not to mention a special place in my heart for the really cheesy ones – and although I’ve not yet sat down to catalog each and every reference, I know that Larry himself is currently doing so (the index will be appearing on his fabulous website for the novel – www.larrydoyle.com) and every challenge I’ve tossed in his direction has been met with a page number and a paragraph.
Half the fun of reading Go Mutants is finding out just how many of these cultural touchstones you can catch – from Gort (The Day the Earth Stood Still) who’s day job is not one you’d expect, all the way through to The Man From Planet X and The Creature From the Black Lagoon (soon to be appearing at drive-ins in your town!)
Doyle isn’t satisfied with riffing off of old films only; there’s a wealth of references to early rock-n-roll, television shows, political personalities and happenings, all woven together like the largest, tightest, knottiest ball of string you’ve ever seen.
All of this would be more than enough for any fan of genre classics, but Doyle’s encyclopedia of twisted history merely serves as the backdrop for a multi-layered tale of teen angst, coming of age, acceptance and redemption, sex, love, politics and sex. (Did I mention sex?)
Go Mutants takes place in the town of Manhattan and at Manhattan High, where J!m (not a typo) is wrestling with his identity, his place in the world, his personal relationships with girl friends, wannabe girl friends, friends and bullies.
J!m feels alienated like any teenager should. Especially when that teenager is an alien, complete with oily blue skin, random snaky appendages and a bulging, translucent cranium. J!m has decided that since he doesn’t fit in, he’s not going to bother even trying. He’ll just mark time until graduation, after which he hopes to go to film school where he’ll specialize in B Grade gore fests. (The novel could in fact be one of J!m’s scripts.)
Our alien hero’s problems are not entirely due to raging teen hormones, identity crises and agonizing self-examination though. J!m’s problems are complicated by the fact that his father really did try to destroy the Earth after delivering ye olde proclamation from orbit. At least that’s what the PLEX (Doyle’s annoying and advertising-laden standin for the internet) says.
We soon learn that J!m’s father was captured, or killed, or captured and then killed (history has a way of getting muddled in the PLEX) through the liberal use of ATOMIC WEAPONS!
And this is where the novel really begins to shine. Doyle takes America’s love-hate relationship with the bomb and turns it into a saccharine love-love relationship, positing a world in which nuclear armageddon has come and gone and left a wild beach party in its wake.
The book is also biting (fang and tentacle-driven biting) satire of our current society. Consider all of the definitions there are for ‘alien’, throw in a fifties world in which sexual repression simply does not exist (as if the world went straight from Ozzie and Harriet to Woodstock with no stops in between), throw in a dash or two of unabashed American Imperialism and you’ll get some idea of where Doyle is heading and what he has to say.
The pacing is fabulous: had I not been interrupted by mundane concerns, I’d have been able to finish this off in a single sitting (and I wanted to!). I also wanted to mention that Doyle has a fine way with puns (the hallmark of a really good SF comedy). One of them floored me with simultaneous laughter and groans.
Further details deponent sayeth not. Except to note that I was almost as thrilled with the typography, layout and cover art as I was with the story. It was meant to evoke late nite at the drive in double feature (B horror flicks naturally) and did an admirable job of conveying that feel.
Go Mutants is not only destined to be appearing at a (drive in) theater near you, I expect it’s going to be nominated for not a few awards along the way. Don’t miss this one, or Larry Doyle will melt your brain!And don't forget to visit Larry's "world's most needlessly elaborate book website"
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