Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Grasshopper Jungle: a history
The Alex Crow

by Andrew Smith

One could be forgiven for thinking the author of these two books could not possibly be the same Andrew Smith who wrote Winger and Stand Off. I'm reviewing these two together because both are wacky, irreverent science fiction-y stories; I'll review Winger later, probably after I've read Stand Off (on the shelf at home).

Grasshopper Jungle is a real eye-catcher, bright electric-green with yellow-edged pages, and the insides are equally exciting. It's also a little raunchy, if you consider giant mutant insect sex to be naughty. Teenager sex happens too, but a lot more bug sex happens. The story could be considered something of an anti-GMO parable, or a warning about science (and wealth and power) run amok, but it's also just a story about a teenage boy who loves his girlfriend but also maybe loves his gay best friend too. Teens seem to really dig this book, and I was pretty jazzed by it too, though I think there was waaay too much cigarette smoking (totally unnecessary smoking, IMHO, but seriously overdone even if you believe it did add something to the story).

Side note about Grasshopper Jungle: After reading this book, I noticed that the Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data lists "Gender identity" as one of the subject headings. No one in the story questions or changes his/her gender identity, so it's completely wrong and should be "Bisexuality" or "Sexual orientation." I was able to get it changed in my library's catalog pretty easily. I also contacted the LoC to see if they could have the CIP data changed for future editions of the book; they promised to get back to me, but it's been more than a year. Even if they do change the CIP, thousands of libraries still have copies with the wrong subject heading. I've considered a few ways to try to start a campaign to spread the word and get other libraries to change their cataloging too, but I don't know if I'll ever get it together to really do anything. I also tried to contact the author through a form on his website, but no one wrote back to me.

The Alex Crow is not as good as Grasshopper Jungle. It sort of felt to me in some ways like a soup of ideas leftover from the earlier book, and the characters aren't as engaging. Repeated themes include absentee adults, mutant/cybernetic animals, doomsday scenario. Humor and sex are lacking compared to GJ. Still worth reading and a solid recommendation if you enjoyed its predecessor.

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