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Friday, March 17, 2006

Stuff of Interest - June 2006 - Grease Monkey

by Tim Eldred

Caught in the crossfire of an interstellar war, our Earth was bombed to flinders--and then repaired. The mysterious alien Benefactors who healed the planet also offered "uplift" to our dolphins and gorillas. The dolphins turned them down. The gorillas said yes. As a result, we'Â’re now sharing our world with language-using, tool-making simians. Tensions are inevitable, in both directions, but it's gradually working out.

Decades later, teenage cadet Robin Plotnik has been assigned to Fist of Earth, a defense station high above Earth, keeping watch against further attacks by the interstellar Horde. Robin's a spacecraft mechanic-in-training, apprenticed to Chief "Mac" Gimbensky, a cranky but basically benign gorilla with issues of his own.

Fist of Earth is a challenging place to grow up. Robin and Mac maintain fighter craft for the all-woman "Barbarian Squadron", which constantly competes for prestige with the other squadrons based on Fist of Earth. Robin's trying to romance a young librarian, and he's far from sure he knows what he's doing. Most of all, he's constantly struggling to figure out his moody, mercurial boss.

Then he and his best friend become entangled in a burgeoning scandal over betting on the squadrons' standings. And just when things look like they've hit rock bottom, the worst thing imaginable arrives at Fist of Earth: an efficiency expert from Earth, determined to reorganize Robin's hard-won life, and the whole squadron system, out of existence.

Fresh and engaging, crammed with likeable characters and science-fictional inventiveness, Grease Monkey is like a classic "Heinlein juvenile" in sequential-art mode.

352 pages, Hardcover, $27.95
Tor Books APR063418

There were two go-rounds for this as a comic book series in the 1990s, from Kitchen Sink and then from Image, both collecting short stories done earlier, neither of which got past #2. Good to see that Eldred has continued working on it in the meantime, and we get the equivalent of what would have been a dozen issues in one shot. What I read was a lot of fun, old-school adventure sci-fi with a heavy Japanese animation influence in the art and designs. Should do well with both the prose sci-fi crowd and the manga readers.

Tor Books seems to be showing good taste in comics to publish, with Charles Vess' BALLADS book before this. Have they published any other comics?

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