Review

Angry Young Spaceman

by Jim Munroe



The great thing about science fiction is how it turns a
sledgehammer into a scalpel. The most stubborn, crude, hammered-in
argument, when transported to an alternate universe, can become
subtle and penetrating. If aggressive propaganda makes you want to
clap your hands over your ears, a good sci-fi novel with the same
message might instead have you slapping your forehead with the
obvious rightness of it all. And if that novel is rich and
well-written enough to stand on its own, message or no message,
that's even better.

Canadian author Jim Munroe has had years of practice hitting
readers over the head with unassailably lefty political views. He
worked as managing editor at Adbusters before completing his
first novel, FLYBOY ACTION FIGURE COMES WITH GASMASK, in 1999. He
also has a website, NoMediaKings.org, primarily devoted to
subverting the elephantine powers-that-be of the publishing
industry. This background makes his second novel, ANGRY YOUNG
SPACEMAN, all the more impressive: Munroe so deftly weaves
progressive politics into an engrossing story that you barely
notice he's doing it.

It helps, of course, that the universe of ANGRY YOUNG SPACEMAN is
basically an extrapolated, worst-case-scenario version of our own.
Earth has won political ownership of the universe, the English
language is spreading like a virus across alien galaxies, and even
remote cultures embrace Earth-centric pop songs and human-shaped
dolls. It's globalization taken to the extreme. The Earth really is
paved; all its species save humans are dead. Toronto is a suburb of
New York. Film stars come from the moon colony, where low gravity
breeds pale creatures of delicate beauty. Flying saucers are retro.
In place of punk rock, there's "pug," a subculture centered on
streetfighting.

Sam, the angry young spaceman of the title, is a pug himself; his
watch even has a handy "aggrometer" to monitor his hostility
levels. But he doesn't want to be a pug forever, and he certainly
doesn't want to work for his reprehensibly capitalist/imperialist
mother, who "renovates" entire planets over the phone on her lunch
breaks. (Planet renovation seems to be the urban renewal of the
future.) So he takes an assignment as an English teacher on the
distant planet Octavia, where the locals have tentacles and live
underwater. Sam --- a smart, self-deprecating, very likable guy ---
makes some friends, learns a lot, meets a girl and stumbles through
enough awkward culture-shock episodes to keep the book clipping
along at a fast pace. In the process, he sneaks in some charmingly
matter-of-fact observations on Earth's shortsighted arrogance that
are far more convincing than any directly dogmatic argument could
be.

Reviewed by Becky Olshen on January 20, 2011

Angry Young Spaceman
by Jim Munroe

  • Publication Date: September 9, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press
  • ISBN-10: 1568582080
  • ISBN-13: 9781568582085