Friday, July 2, 2010

Boom! (or 70,000 light years)

Haddon, Mark. 2010.Boom! (or 70,000 light years). New York: Random House.

According to the author's foreword, this book was first published in Great Britain in 1992 as Gridzbi Spudvetch! He was asked to update it for new publication and proceeded to change nearly every sentence in the book.  What resulted was Boom! (or 70,000 light years), a humorous, sci-fi, adventure story featuring James (or Jimbo), his 16-year-old sister Becky, his best friend Charlie, Mum and Dad, and a cast of jibberish spouting aliens.

Jim and Charlie are cut-ups at school, Becky is a rebellious teen with a boyfriend nicknamed Craterface.  Dad is an out of work tinkerer, fond of building model planes.  And Mum, well, after she nearly knocks out Craterface with her briefcase for threatening Jimbo, the story's narrator who is hiding in the bathroom, he emerges to shake Mum's hand and say,
"That was classy." At least there was one real man in the family.
He continues,
After all the commotion it turned into a surprisingly pleasant evening.  Dad spent so long in the shop, for fear of coming back and finding Craterface still in residence, that he'd done enough shopping for three weeks.  Toilet rolls, J-cloths, washing-up liquid, scouring powder, the works.  So Mum was happy.  And Dad was happy that Mum was happy.  And I was happy that Mum and Dad were happy with each other.  Plus, Becky was really unhappy, which always cheered me up.  And anyway, she just stayed in her room, sulking, so we had a very nice time indeed.

The reader will have to get used to the many British terms and occasional spelling differentials (licence for license). Most words can be figured out contextually, but one sent me scurrying for an Internet browser,
I dreamed of duvets and hot breakfasts, big jumpers and radiators.
Jumpers are apparently the British term for sweaters.  I wouldn't have guessed that one.

Boom! is full of non-stop action from the first alien encounter at school to the boys' eventual trip to the planet, Plonk.  Fun, fast, and full of humor, there's still a message to this story - big teenage sisters aren't as bad as you think and of course, there's no place like home!

Read an excerpt.
Here's an interview with author, Mark Haddon.  In it, he doesn't discuss Boom!, however, I was pleased to hear that he and I share The Wind in the Willows as one of our favorite children's books.

A side note - Mark Haddon is also the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, 2010's One Book NJ choice for adult readers.

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