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Book Review: Go, Mutants! by Larry Doyle

Go MutantsGenre: Parody, Comic SF
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: June 22, 2010
ISBN-10: 0061686557
ISBN-13: 978-0061686559
Author Website: Larry Doyle
Book Site: www.gomutants.com

Teenage angst, B-movie monsters, and hilarious pop culture references combine in Go, Mutants! the latest novel by Larry Doyle, an Emmy-winning writer for the Simpsons and author of I Love You, Beth Cooper.

Set in an alternate universe where B-movie monsters and aliens are real, the story follows J!m, the blue-skinned, gawky, angst-ridden hero. A high school bad boy, (an alien version of John Travolta from Grease) J!m not only suffers because he is a an alien in a world that despises aliens and mutants, but also because he is the son of the very alien who came to earth and (according to the human victors) very nearly destroyed it. Everyone, including his fellow misfits, is just waiting for the moment when J!m will rise up and attempt to take over the world like his father before him.

The story itself follows a typical high-school scenario. J!m and his buddies are the misfits, the type of students who would join the cast of Glee, but far who are far less pretty. Surrounded by the seemingly “normal” humans around them, J!m, his ape-friend Johnny, and his blob friend Larry, are picked on and tortured by Russell, the school jock. Add to this J!m’s undying love for Marie, his childhood friend, who seems to be ignoring him for Russell, and the stage is set for a transformative story of a geeky boy to a powerful lover. A rags to riches love story, as so many of these novels of high school are.

But though the plotting follows a typical direction (with some setting and small detail twists provided by the whole alternate universe thing) Doyle deftly weaves a story that the reader just will not want to put down. Superb use of metaphor, pop culture references, and punnery keep the reader smiling and laughing. Doyle captures the whole mentality of the early 60’s where the world was on the brink of a new technological age brought on by atomic power, but whereas in our world such research was curtailed, the atomic age is in full force for J!m and his friends.

The pop culture references are so well-woven into the tapestry of the novel, that sometimes they seem completely natural (appropriate for a writer for the Simpsons. One of my favorites is a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey in which J!m has an argument with his car that is reminiscent of HAL and Dave’s – though inflected with considerably more humor.

The construction of the novel is fun too. Each chapter’s title is a classic tagline (or at least sounds and looks like one) from the B-movie trailers of the 50’s. Doyle even goes so far as to write some portions of the beginning of chapters in script format, further cementing the feeling of the reader watching, rather than reading, a scifi B-movie.

Fun, quirky, and funny, Go, Mutants is great beach reading, a parody that has all the appeal of teen romance films, B-movie zaniness, and cleverly worded storytelling that will entertain a wide variety of audiences.