The environmental movement lacks a sense of humor. Too many greens resemble fire-and-brimstone preachers who threaten you with eternal damnation if you don’t clean up your act and come to Jesus. Activists have a point: Climate change, industrial pollution, and unfettered genetic modification technologies pose real threats to humanity. It’s hard to tell a joke as the earth succumbs to man’s stupidity. But campaigners’ dourness gets in the way of the message. Who wants to listen to Cassandra night and day, even if she’s right?
Author Karen Faris cuts across this grain with Grumbles The Novel: Take A Pill, the first book of a three-part scifi series that puts a humorous spin on the world’s biggest environmental challenges. Pettie Grumbles is a retired special agent with the U.S. Postal Service in a future upstate New York town of Prêt-a-Porter. Climate change has a firm hold on the planet, though most people don’t seem to notice, because a mad scientist with the sobriquet “The Weatherman” has managed to fix it with a constant forecast of “72 and sunny.” Grumbles is called back into service by her old boss, Tellmemydoom, to defeat this evil, and she’s off on her quest, dodging rivals tossing bombs made of stinking cabbage while reluctantly caring for homeless waifs.
Grumbles is part art project, part therapy for Faris, an activist for good government in Rochester, New York. It’s a short distance from concerned citizen to wing nut, and writing satire is no doubt good for Faris’ soul. For the reader, Grumbles is a chance to step back and see the damage we’ve done to the environment as another facet of the human comedy. It you can’t laugh at life, even the scariest bits, you might as well drink a vial of benzene and be done with it.