Go, Mutants!

Posted by Jeff Markowitz on Wednesday, December 15, 2010
There have been many books that have captured the angst of adolescence, the horror of high school, but Larry Doyle truly puts the alien in alienation in his new book Go, Mutants!

Go, Mutants! is set in the early 1970s, in Manhattan High School.  Imagine your typical high school, with a twist.  You see, Larry Doyle has imagined an earth with a very different history (and yet somehow, an earth that seems oh so familiar) an earth that was set on an altogether different path on October 3, 1951.  Because that was the day that the space aliens really did attack.

Larry Doyle puts us in a world where all those 1950s B movies about space aliens attacking earth really did take place, where the aliens very nearly, but not quite, destroy the planet.  And failing to destroy the planet, the aliens and mutants simply take up life amongst us, not in disguise, but as (second-class) citizens in our communities.  And by the 1970s (when Go, Mutants! takes place), their spawn, aliens and half-aliens, mutants and half-mutants, are in your high school, sitting next to you in history class.  Dear God, they're in your gym class!

"J!m, the son of the alien who nearly destroyed the planet, is a brooding, megacephalic rebel with a big forehead and exceptionally oily skin.  Along with Johnny, a radioactive biker ape and Jelly, a gelatinous mass passing as a fat kid, J!m navigates a particularly unpleasant adolescence in which he really is as alienated as he feels, the world might actually be out to get him, and true love is complicated by misunderstanding and incompatible parts."  (excerpted from the book jacket)

Larry Doyle is a former writer for The Simpsons.  His first book, I Love You, Beth Cooper, earned him the 2008 Thurber Prize for American Humor.  The man can, flat-out, write.  For example,

"Melia Mantis had been teaching Feminine Hygiene at MHS for a dozen years, since the accident.  To look at her, her lime hair in shellacked buns on the corners of her head, her prothorax nothing to write home about, it was hard to imagine she had once been Miss Greece, a Jill of the Month, and a promising sex researcher.  Had she isolated that pheromone that drives male mantids so wild they don't mind getting their heads bitten off, she'd be Queen of the Earth.  Instead she was a nine-foot-tall predatory insect with an enormous caboose, things sometimes turning out differently than one imagines they will."

It took me all year to find my Best Book of 2010, but this is surely it.  Perhaps not a great book, but a damn good book, an inspired bit of lunacy, a truly original book, done to great effect.

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