First off, I need to say this isn’t science fiction, despite what I’m about to say next. This author has taken the notions popularized in Communion, by Whitley Strieber, and spun them around to her own sense of humour and love. Strieber’s 1987 book launched the ‘grey’s’, those iconic little aliens with huge eyes, who popped into both our bedrooms and hapless psyches. Who hasn’t heard about their appearing in bedroom closets, abducting people for ruthless science experiments, causing memory lapses in those they visit? In The Love Monster, by Missy Marston, they show up again, up to many of the same old tricks, but from a very different perspective. In this quirky novel, the leader of the aliens has fallen madly in love with Margaret Atwood. No, not that Margaret Atwood. But he is quite familiar with that Margaret Atwood’s novels.
Unlike the usual emotionless ‘greys’ of pop culture, this alien is shimmering green, ardent, envious, wishing he had a “bloody red beating human heart.” There is a scene where he is about to set off for one of his nocturnal visits to Margaret’s bedroom, where he will later hypnotize her into forgetting the event. This scene is quite unlike the stories from pop culture. Instead the authors tells us that the other aliens “…fuss about him like excited bridesmaids-They pinch and tuck and pet and smooth. They stand back and assess. The Leader takes a deep breath and peers closely at the screen, looks at Margaret, lying there sleeping.” (In case you have a Strieber induced prejudice toward aliens, you should know that this alien regrets the bad press that he and his colleagues earned from their kidnapping, probing and experimenting phase, that they have learned to use a more gentle approach.)
The tone of his book is initially facetious, occasionally bordering on cold and cruel. But as the characters develop, the tone shifts. Margaret is dealing with the conclusion of a bad marriage, where she has come to loathe the husband, yet she equally loathes the idea of his leaving her. She also loathes pretty much everyone on the planet. She’s an annoyingly depressed person. If it weren’t for the fresh humour of the aliens popping in to meddle, I might have put this book down.
This unique book can’t be classified as science fiction. Perhaps it goes beyond science fiction into the realm of hopelessly idealistic fantasy, with an ironic, sometimes even Socratic ironic twist. It may event go beyond both those genres and simply be a story about how the human heart is broken and then rescued by compassion. A love-sick alien meddles, though he worries about his motives. Margaret’s mother comes to meddle as well, and revels in being a woman in late middle age, a time that blesses her with such invisibility that “she can walk down the street smoking pot in full view and not event provoke a second glance.”
Missy Marston has created a story that is both highly ridiculous and humane. It’s a wonderful read that will have you smiling and feeling good about the human race and the aliens too!
Reviewed by Mary Oxendale Spensley