Review: Go, Mutants! by Larry Doyle

Review written by Jess Peacock
(Note: Reposted from Famous Monsters of Filmland)

As a kid growing up in central Ohio, the weekends were a very distinctive time for me. There was no school obviously, but Fridays and Saturdays throughout my childhood also provided a specifically unique education. With horror host instructors such as Big Chuck and Little John on channel 8, Super Host on channel 43, and the Ghoul on channel 61, I was emotionally raptured into an otherworld filled with monsters from the farthest reaches of space and beyond. Others could have their football games and Wide World of Sports; I was more concerned with blithely living in a universe filled with giant lizards, Ro-Men, She-Creatures, and horrors on various party beaches.

Perhaps this nostalgic affinity for classic horror and science fiction fare has unduly influenced my enthusiastic opinion of Larry Doyle’s novel Go, Mutants!, a delightfully brilliant masterpiece that successfully pays homage to classic creature features and space operas, while brutally skewering both high school and national politics (let’s face it, sometimes there’s no difference) with equal wit and genius.

Set in an alternate history where both iconic and obscure 1950’s & 60’s genre aliens and beasties have been integrated into society, Go, Mutants! tells the story of an alien teenage outcast, J!m, looking for his place in life. More akin to Exeter from This Island Earth, J!m hangs out with a green motorcycle riding ape and a love hungry glob of goo named Jelly while pining after Marie, the earth girl of his dreams.

"After the success of the book I Love You, Beth Cooper, the publisher wanted to know what else I had,” author Larry Doyle recalls. “Go, Mutants! was it. It was a notion I had been kicking around for a few years, but hadn't figured out a thematic underpinning until the events of the past few years, when I realized that politically and socially, we were reliving the fifties. That gave me a reason, and excuse, for using all these cool aliens and mutants in a story.”

“I wanted to show them living on the periphery of society, objects of derision but also fear and desire,” Doyle says. “And I wanted to do it without being as obvious as what I just said.”

Troubled by his bewildering passion for the human Marie (not to mention the merciless bullying he experiences daily at school), J!m must deal with his Rebel Without a Clue-ish high school existential funk while simultaneously coming to terms with an unwanted legacy as the son of Andy, a brilliant, British accented alien allegedly killed during his diabolical pursuit of world domination. “The aliens and mutants represent the Other, in the way that Communists, blacks, Muslims and now illegal aliens do in our society,” explains Doyle. “The events of 9/11 propelled us back into a Cold War mentality, only with radical Islam replacing Communism as a boogieman, with all the attendant hysteria, witch hunts and loyalty tests. As in the fifties, it’s not that no threat exists; it’s that our reaction to the threat probably does more damage to our underlying principles than the threat realistically poses.”

Avoiding the numerous literary pitfalls that such politically metaphoric material can present, Doyle, a former writer for The Simpsons, spins a frenetic sophomore effort that deftly avoids heavy handed proselytizing in exchange for wicked smart dialogue, colorfully rendered characters, and a world that many of us have fantasized about since adolescence.

Still a fan of classic genre fare such as The Day the Earth Stood Still (“Still works”) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (“Holds up pretty good”), Doyle remembers fondly his early years consuming endless hours of the material that would ultimately make up Go, Mutants!, including Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. “Famous Monsters made a perfect accompaniment to Creature Features, the local horror show in Chicago on Friday nights,” Doyle recalls. “Fresh magazines and books were not provided at my house, so wretched was my childhood, that I would cadge them off a friend, or at a garage sale or by shoplifting it.”

Fortunately for those of us who look fondly upon the days of wild eyed mad scientists, stop motion beasts from the deep, and radiation giving life to, well, just about anything, Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment has purchased the rights to Go, Mutants! “I just handed in the second draft of the screenplay,” Doyle reports. “A lot can happen between that and a movie coming out, including a movie never coming out. It will depend, to a certain extent, on how well the book does. So please buy 10,000 copies.”

I bought mine…