Happy book birthday to Geoff Rodkey’s WE’RE NOT FROM HERE! As if Rodkey’s NYT Bestselling Author status wasn’t enough intro… WE’RE NOT FROM HERE calls out and leverages the imagination co-creation between author and reader in a sci-fi / political satire manages to be both profound and hilarious.
I’m going to put one of the most brilliant parts of this book up front: We can guess at Lan’s race, but we don’t know his/her gender. Going back to the whole “this book is brilliant” thing, Rodkey states in the intro: “I gave the readers a bit more space to imagine whatever version of Lan works best for them.”
In other words, a book about a planet full of giant flies, is a work of literary brilliance that is probably going to be dissected in college discussion groups for centuries to come, and this is a good thing.
Picture it: Space. Maybe the 2030s. Earth has been destroyed in an unspecified radiation accident or possibly nuclear war, and a small group of humans (first names suggest ethnic diversity and all are fluent in English) live on a space-station-turned-refugee-camp somewhere outside Mars. Perceptive preteen aspiring comedy vlogger Lan Mifune walks us through the weird world, with just enough personality to be engaging and just enough flexibility that anyone can step into Lan’s brain.
Fortunately, distant planet Choom, home to four different alien species and a history of welcoming immigrants, welcomes the humans as long as they promise not to become violent (again). Giant housefly Zhuri, werewolf Krik, marshmallow monster Ororo, and weird worm Nugs were mostly refugees themselves at one point.
Except, something changes during the 20-year biosuspension journey. Now Choom has three species (nobody’s talking about the Nugs), and the refugees are greeted by an Immigration Division official from Choom’s new government: The humans are no longer welcome.
The refugees negotiate one human reproductive unit to come stay as a trial. Lan’s family is chosen due to Mom’s position on the Governing Counsel and sister Ila Mifune’s Earth status as a former American Idol-esque star, and the Mifunes touch down in a high-stakes exchange student arrangement that could make or break the survival of the human race.
In a school of mostly Zhuri and Krik, Lan builds a tentative alliance with the semi-criminal Ororor Marf and her Krik sidekick Ezger. While emotion (produces smells and led to the Nuk’s extermination) is forbidden on Choom, the uneasy trio distributes contraband funny videos of Lan being clumsy and Simpsons-esque cartoons of (allegedly) excessive bodily functions in order to win over the others on Choom.
Their efforts result in a riveting climax of kids dressed in plastic garbage bags and singing American folk songs, triggering a governmental overthrow.
Climax of kids Overthrowing the government dressed in 3-D printed plastic garbage bags
While Rodkey’s second-degree burn against the American immigration system might escape a child reader, it won’t escape an adult: The Krik, once the sole species on Choom, are now a minority population with more humble jobs. The majority Zhuri, second-newest arrivals and most stringent gatekeepers, sneer at their manners and food as disgusting.
WE’RE NOT FROM HERE releases March 5, 2019 from Random House.
Thanks Random House and Geoff Rodkey for the ARC. All opinions are my own.
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Sidenote: Rodkey’s worldbuilding and introduction of a complicated world are brilliantly executed in the first chapter, making WE’RE NOT FROM HERE a mentor text every writer should check out.