cover image Grease Monkey

Grease Monkey

Tim Eldred, . . Tor Books, $27.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-765-31325-6

First impressions can be deceiving. This tale, set in a postapocalyptic future, starts out by introducing young space cadet (and science fiction buff) Robin Plotnik as he reports for duty as a mechanic aboard the spaceship Fist of Duty . There he meets his superior, Mac Gimbensky, a talking gorilla who is rumored to eat people, and the Barbarians, a squadron of gorgeous female fighter pilots. It would seem that we are in the realm of juvenile sci-fi, bursting with undiluted adolescent male fantasies. But beneath the fantastic trappings, this is really a coming-of-age story that takes the form of a charming romantic comedy. While learning how to fit into shipboard society, Robin cautiously seeks to court a young librarian named Kara. As for the allegedly fearsome Mac, the gorilla not only becomes Robin's mentor and protector, but is something of an overgrown kid, who has a surprisingly touching romance with a female gorilla space fleet admiral. Eldred's writing is filled with gentle comedy and wise personal insights. His artwork is traditional in the best sense: not flashy but clear, efficient and handsome, and particularly good at conveying his cast's personalities. While swimming in some time-tested waters, this work should appeal to readers who appreciate a universal story and nuanced characterization with their space battles. (May)