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Tim Eldred's: "Grease Monkey: A Tale of Growing up in Orbit"

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This is a $27.95 351-page comic-sized hardback from Tor Books, the country's leading science fiction publisher. I think it's their first graphic novel. It's a labor of love that took about ten years to finish, and I recommend it.

The back story is that some time ago, in the early 21st century, nasty aliens came out of nowhere and attacked Earth, killing two thirds of the population, and flew away satisfied. Then good aliens came along to help us recover and enlist us as allies against the bad ones. Because Earth was now underpopulated, they offered to uplift two other species to intelligence. The dolphins declined, the gorillas accepted. Here's the first bit of comic-book SF: even after getting smeared, humans outnumbered gorillas a million to one, so uplift wasn't going to help the population problem. Anyway, they should have also done chimpanzees, which are more numerous and much randier. Well, maybe they had ulterior motives, like leavening humans with a less aggressive species.

The story takes place in the enormous human flagship *Fist of Earth*, where fighter squadrons train to fight the enemy. The gorillas seem to have something going for them, since they make up a significant portion of the ship's complement. The protagonist is Robin Plotnik, junior spacecraft mechanic, who has in chapter 1 has just arrived and is assigned to chief mechanic Mac Gimbensky, a gorilla. And is a bit worried by rumors that he ate his last assistant. There's no war in this book, except intersquadron training exercises. These are hotly contested, and serve rather as football would in a less spatial Bildungsroman. In this case, though, the emphasis is on the mechanics rather than the jocks. (And Gimbensky is mechanic for the all-woman, top-ranking Barbarian Squadron, further confusing things.)

The story unfolds in 24 chapters and three vignettes, all written as self-contained stories. Some of the plotting is rather comic-booky, but on the whole it goes down smooth. The drawing is also fine, from the front cover with its *2001* homage to the sketches in the 'how it happened' section at the back. Team rivalry, cheating and spying, romance, interspecies relationships, dealing with asshole officers, political campaigning by dirty tracksters, drinking bouts, evil dentists, family coming on visits, lots of fun.

For this audience, the big question is, how are the furries? And I'd say, pretty good. Eldred tried to keep them from being people in gorilla suits, and I think he did a good job. I particularly liked the gorilla fights and the 'understand the humans' game. Mac Gimbensky is a great guy and his frustrated courtship of Admiral Stettler is a joy to watch.

This definitely belongs on the list of classic furry comics.

Available from Amazon.Com

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About the author

Treesongread storiescontact (login required)

    from West Chester, PA, interested in furry and word puzzles