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Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask
Jim Munroe
Avon/Spike Books, 256 pages

Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask
Jim Munroe
Jim Munroe was born in 1973. He has his roots in the 'zine and anarchist punk scenes. He was the managing editor for the award-winning Adbusters Magazine, and has lived in South Korea and Vancouver. Currently, he lives in Toronto's Kensington Market. He has finished his next novel, Angry Young Spaceman, about a guy who goes to another planet to teach English. He turned down an offer to go with HarperCollins Canada and it will be published by NoMediaKings.

Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask cover was changed for the US release. Terry Lau's version of the cover recently won an award from the Ad Design Club of Canada.

Jim Munroe Website
ISFDB Bibliography
Canadian Cover: Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

Stories about normal folks who take up the role of superheroes in actual contemporary society are rare, but not exactly unheard of in the genre. Michael Bishop's dark satire Count Geiger's Blues and George R.R. Martin's "Aces" shared universe story collections are certainly two of the better known novels in the sub-genre. Now Jim Monroe's thoughtful first novel joins the list.

Lovelorn University of Toronto student Ryan Slint can turn into a fly, something he discovered as a child and has never told another living soul -- until he falls for an ex-punk-rock-musician-turned-diner-waitress named Cassandra. When Cass tells him, totally straight-faced, that her daughter Jess is the result of intercourse with an actual space alien, Ryan shares his own big secret. Which prompts Cassandra to admit one more thing: she has a superpower of her own, the ability to make things disappear.

While superpowers make for some creative additions to their lovelife, Cass suggests they use their abilities to fight evil.

"Because I identify with Sailor Moon?" Ken asks her.
"Exactly. A bumbling little girl with all the wrong priorities becomes a hero. Admit that appeals to you."
Enter "Flyboy" and "Ms. Place". Their model is none other than anime star Sailor Moon and her cohort (the cheerful American version, not the Japanese version where the Sailor Scouts all die horribly but honourably in battle). An appropriate foe appears when Ryan's mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. Together he and Cass plot to "kill" cigarette billboards, but their guerrilla action gets so little attention they decide to ask a socially conscious friend for some PR help. Before long the superheroes are taking part in rallies, embarrassing the police, and faxing official statements to the press. Emails and letters deluge the heroes' public mail drops.

Still this is all small potatoes until Ryan's friend Ken is arrested for possession of a joint and becomes a test case for the latest "get tough on drugs" law. The superheroes make a public announcement that they will not allow Ken to be jailed -- which only increases the determination of the authorities to "bring him to justice." Meanwhile the socially conscious groups who'd first embraced Flyboy and Ms. Place are falling into their own morass of legal wrangling, perfectly willing to enter a long-term legal battle which has everything to do with publicity and nothing to do with helping Ken.

Munroe is playing with a lot of plot strings here and generally he succeeds in keeping them from getting tangled and knotted off. Ignore the cover blurbs: If you pick this book up expecting lots of action, you'll be disappointed. Munroe keeps the story at a much smaller, more intimate level. As a first person narrator, Ryan is intelligent and easily believable. His hip exterior hides a shy and awkward male who isn't sure he'll ever fit in with the rest of humanity.

Munroe has a real gift for smart dialogue and brisk wordplay, but his plotting seems less sure. He often avoids showing us the "big" scenes, preferring to skim over them or reveal them via quick flashback -- or just never do anything with them at all. We never, for example, get enough information to come to any conclusion about Cass' daughter Jessy, which feels disquieting, even if Munroe intends it to be that way. The novel is fast-paced and humorous, with enough satire to complement the bittersweet plot. "There's nothing worse than seeing a fly bang itself against a wall again and again," Ryan notes early on. At it's simplest, Flyboy is about hope, about getting past the dead ends we've all faced, and getting on with life.

Copyright © 1999 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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