Reading at the Speed of Sound: Go Mutants!

It’s tough being a teenager. It’s even tougher being an unappreciated alien living on Earth. And when, like J!m, you’re both of these things at the same time, there’s enough adolescent angst to nuke the planet. In fact, nuking the planet is exactly what humanity did years earlier in order to defeat an alien invasion led by J!m’s father. Now, J!m and his mother live in a run-down section of town and try not to attract attention.

Unfortunately, that’s not easy when you look like J!m, with his blue-gray skin, periwinkle lips, independently rotational ears, and “his forehead was quite high, approximately ten inches, and bulging with brains, but even this evoked the slick upswept hairstyle favored by singers and delinquents, without the hair. A girl with enough imagination might find him attractive in a rugged, sun-dried sort of way. The girls at J!m’s school did not possess that much imagination.”

Author Larry Doyle (I Love You, Beth Cooper) has a field day in Go, Mutants! taking the stereotypical traumas of high school and re-imagining them through the eyes of an impressionable alien who only wants to fit in. As J!m navigates the treacherous rapids of social interactions between aliens, mutants (remember the nuclear war with the aliens) and unfathomable human beings—especially girls —  his journey is enhanced by being told in a style reminiscent of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which is one of the things that makes this story work so well.

Another thing that makes this story so much fun is the way it is structured around every science fiction B-movie from the 1950’s and 1960’s you’d care to remember. For example, J!m’s two best friends are a radioactive ape-boy named Johnny Love—the son of King Kong and a woman he carried off into the jungle—and Jelly, who is a gelatinous mass that is basically The Blob (who can forget that gem of a movie?) in blue jeans and a tee-shirt.

This is a good time to sing the praises of the narrator, Robert Petkoff. He uses a slight British accent to do the main “Hitchhikers Guide” narrative part and nails it perfectly. Anyone who has heard the BBC’s radio production of Hitchhikers will appreciate what Petkoff does here. But he also switches back and forth between the various characters with ease, giving each one a voice that sounds just right for him or her. I especially enjoyed Johnny Love’s smooth, low, Elvis-esque voice, which was perfect.  

The print version of this book uses graphics to help clue reader in to the importance of the movie theme throughout the book. It is a little more difficult to pick up on this when listening to the audio—at least at first. Slightly confusing for the first couple of minutes, it won’t take you long to figure out that sci-fi movies are going to be an underlying theme of this book.

Although it’s true that the story is generally light fare served up with various brands of humor which usually work, at times it also surprises by making some insightful observations along the way. Teenage aliens begin to seem perfectly natural and Jim’s relentless persecution by the human school bullies makes it easy to want to defect from the human race and side with the aliens.

At a little under eight hours, this makes a great summer listen from Harper Audio that will have you laughing and pondering some deep thoughts at the same time. That’s a nice combination.

Librarian by day, at night Susan is the audiobook reviews editor for SF Site. She’s also collecting and indexing links to audiobook reviews on the Internet at Audiobook Jukebox.


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