Wednesday, January 4, 2012

One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy by Stephen Tunney

Hieronymus Rexaphin is a teenager like lots of other teenagers. He fights with his parents. He falls for girls way out of his league. He sneaks out at night to hang with his friends. He’s really good at history and English but terrible at math.

Also, he lives on the moon two thousand years from now and he’s legally prohibited from removing his glasses and showing anyone his eyes. Hieronymus suffers from a condition called Lunarcroptic Ocular Symbolanosis, which is to say that he was born with eyes tinted the fourth primary color. It’s not a mixture of the three primary colors we know, but a genuine fourth one, and people who don’t have the condition are unable to process it, which means that seeing the eyes of a hundred percent lunar person, as those with LOS are called, can cause seizures—although if the authorities are to be believed, it can cause madness. (Should a pair of hundred percenters look in each other’s eyes—WHICH HAS NEVER EVER HAPPENED—they will instantly die. Or so it’s said.) It also means that Hieronymus can see the future.

As Stephen Tunney’s One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy begins, Mus has shown his eyes to a terribly curious and terribly pretty girl from Earth, which puts him under suspicion by a determined policeman. He’s also at risk of having his extreme academic schizophrenia discovered—every other student in his high school is either on the smart track (the Toppers) or the dumb track (the Loopies), and he splits his time between the two, depending on which class it’s time for. The combination of these two factors—and the discovery of a certain book that bears no resemblance to its official version—leads to a mad adventure to the dark side of the moon, away from the overcrowded cities and suburbs Mus and his friends have known all their lives and into the wild wastes.

Tunney—who has published one previous novel, Flan—is primarily a musician and painter known by the pseudonym Dogbowl (he was a founding member of the experimental rock band King Missile and has released around a dozen solo albums). He writes with an artist’s skill at sketching character and place and with the imagination of a great science fiction writer. (I did find myself sometimes questioning his skill with naming characters—I kept wondering if there were puns I was missing in names like “Dogumanhed Schmet,” or if there was supposed to be a point that two characters have names that recall sixteenth-century Dutch artists.) There’s a definite undercurrent of social criticism running through the book—the hundred percenters as metaphor for insert-a-minority-here—but it doesn’t feel overbearing or get in the way of the fun.

According to the flap copy, One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy is intended to be the first book in a trilogy, and the novel’s final pages bear this out—it’s not necessarily a cliffhanger, but there are a lot of questions left unanswered. There doesn’t seem to be a set release date (or even a title) for book two yet, but I can’t wait. I recommend it highly for anyone in the mood for a slice of science fiction adventure with heart—if you liked Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (and if you didn’t, I can only presume that means you haven't read it yet), you’ll like this.

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