Grease Monkey
Tim Eldred
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Buy *Grease Monkey: A Tale of Growing Up in Orbit* online

Grease Monkey: A Tale of Growing Up in Orbit
Tim Eldred
Tor Books
352 pages
February 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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After an alien armada wipes out more than half of Earth’s population, more friendly aliens appear to help them recover in the most expedient way possible. Using their advanced technology, the benevolent aliens bestow high intelligence upon the apes and provide Earth with additional help to get them into space.

As Robin and Kevin board the Fist of Earth, part of the Earth’s space fleet, they have aspirations of becoming fighter mechanics and making a name for themselves. While Kevin finds himself hanging out with a group of wise guys and slackers, Robin meets his chief mechanic: Mac Gimbensky, an eight-hundred pound gorilla with a reputation of pummeling assistants who mess up. But Mac’s bark is apparently much worse than his bite. After a gruff introduction, the two become close friends by bonding over a pulp fiction writer whom they both adore. They maintain the space fighters for the Barbarians, the women-only group of pilots who beat all other teams in the rankings. While this life is hard and challenging, Plotnik realizes that he’s found his niche. He enjoys Mac and the Barbarians as a group of talented outsiders who strike envy in the form of ridicule from other personnel on the ship.

With over 350 pages. this graphic novel is impressive. Twenty-four adventures (episodes), three vignettes, and bonus material will keep readers enthralled for hours on end. Diagrams of the ship, individual fighters, and specific areas of the ship, as well as a history of the series, add great depth to the book. The gray-scale color works sufficiently, though the colored dust-jacket merely teases readers to the potential this comic has as a colored work. Color would be a more appropriate choice for the book’s light tone and energy.

One concern about the text: using racism as an element of a storyline can be difficult, especially in Eldred’s case here using apes and humans as points of conflict. This invokes an age-old metaphor of African-descended black people and the “enlightened” white European. Add to the mix that the “apes” could not achieve equal intelligence without genetic alteration, and the premise of Eldred’s book could be considered quite caustic. That’s not to imply these were his intentions, but it is a frame to consider when reading this graphic novel.

Despite this, the graphic novel still deserves kudos for its great dialogue and ongoing narrative. Eldred craftily weaves a tale that many will find engaging and interesting.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Lance Eaton, 2006

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