Monday, January 22, 2018


by Luke Rhinehart
Recommended Ages: 14+

This is a hilarious, but at times politically obnoxious, fantasy about the effect on a Long Island family's lifestyle when they become bosom friends with a race of extraterrestrial beings, variously called FFs (furry fish), Proteans, Ickies, or (in government parlance) Alien Terrorists. The FFs just want to play, and their message to the world is that people should take life less seriously and spend more time doing things "for the hell of it." The Powers That Be couldn't disagree more strongly. The conflict reaches the intensity of, literally, a nuclear explosion, but even that isn't the end of it.

I was 38-percent entertained by this book about an alien invasion of the present-day world by sentient, hairy beach balls from another universe. I was 62-percent put off by its shrill, over-the-top, left-wing politics. It was about two-fifths funny, weird, thought-provoking fun, and three-fifths Social Justice Warrior bull hockey, tinged with an unmistakable hatred for everything historically American that, in my opinion, demands a blind acceptance of a lot of disinformation and a blithe dismissal of many facts about the flip side. I'm not going to go into for-instances here. I do not want this to become a space for hammering out political arguments. I'm just saying what I felt about the book, which is that it kept me just amused enough to pick it up again after repeatedly provoking me to slam it down in disgust.

I've been up front about the negatives, but the positives all have to do with the characters in the story and their adventures. I could even enjoy reading about them when their political views didn't align with mine. I think the parts of the book that turned me off were when the author dropped the pretense of telling a story, brushed the characters and their situation aside, and went full-throttle political. In my opinion, his failing as an author in this instance arose from a lack of discipline and trust in his readers to draw their own connections to real-world politics and make up their own minds. I think it would have been a better book if it had stayed focused on the adventures of Billy, Lita, their two boys, and their super-intelligent, shape-changing, furry friends from Ickieland, or whatever their homeworld is called. "Good people against a corrupt system" is a story-shape that has worked in many contexts, and this particular rendition of it really had me in its grip. But Rhinehart, unfortunately, kept loosening that grip to scratch his own peculiar itch.

Luke Rhinehart, a.k.a. George Cockcroft, is the author of The Dice Man, The Book of est, The Book of Die, Naked Before the World, Jesus Invades George, and at least four other novels, plus the play The Dice House and several screenplays based on his own books. There is a rumor that a sequel to this book is coming, titled The Hairy Balls and the End of Civilization.

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