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Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask Paperback – November 9, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two 20-somethings with special powers join forces for a wave of antiestablishment activism in this big kid's parable for the electronic age, a talky, caffeine-fueled Canadian debut novel celebrating difference and peddling self-empowerment for a new generation of disaffected youth. Ryan Slint, a quirky, mildly histrionic and altogether affable University of Toronto undergraduate with a penchant for entomology falls for Cassandra, a bisexual punk rocker turned waitress who works at a diner near campus. Their increasing intimacy precipitates a string of outrageous confessions: Cass reveals that she was impregnated by an extraterrestrial and gave birth to a clairvoyant alien-human hybrid; Ryan confides he can turn into a fly at will; not to be outdone, Cass discloses that she harbors the power to make things disappear, a talent she first discovered when she was six and "disappeared" her uncle after he tried to rape her. Having come to terms with their superpowers, Ryan and Cass invent the alter egos "Flyboy" and "Ms. Place" and set out to convert their idiosyncrasies into tools for social improvement. As the Superheroes for Social Justice, they embark on a media-savvy crusade to deface cigarette billboards (Ryan's mother, a smoker, has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer), fight for the right to peacefully assemble for feminist causes and lobby for the legalization of marijuana. By the end, the Superheroes and their ragtag crew emerge from a m?lange of puerile pranks, sophomoric insights and escapist stunts still young but with a good deal more direction. Munroe's exuberant, often original phrasings rescue the prose from tediously earnest heart-to-hearts and dialogue that can read like a press release. But for all their efforts, the Superheroes cannot save themselves from the excessive moralizing that makes this novel resemble a slightly less wholesome after-school special. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Munroe's splashy debut is the story of an average college student who can, uh, turn into a fly. Ryan has refrained from mentioning his peculiar power, being keenly aware of the scorn and disbelief such mention would receive. He just plugs away at his classes, alternately slams and supports his roommates, and nurses a crush on the waitress at the local diner. Finally, he chats her up, asks her out, then kisses her. Fortunately, she, Cassandra, is one of the most interesting young women in fiction: smart, tough, roundly sexy, and possessed of some secrets of her own--such as her toddler daughter, Jess, the charming product of a very odd coupling, and her ability to make things disappear. Eventually, Cass and Ryan put their heads together and use their powers to subvert authority in amusing and high-profile ways; for instance, they rewrite cigarette billboards and make newspaper-vending boxes vanish overnight. Like many other college students, they do have other things on their minds, though, such as discovering sex, coping with a dying parent, helping a gay friend come out, and finding a great vintage clothing store. Witty without being acid, sensitive without being goopy, this is a Gen-X novel to treasure. Roberta Johnson

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; First edition (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380810433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380810437
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,903,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stone Junction on January 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
FLYBOY ACTION FIGURE COMES WITH GASMASK is a terrific character study on the benefits and perils that may develop when someone is given a position of power. FLYBOY concerns a twentysomething slacker who has, until now, kept his unusual secret to himself; he has the ability to transform into a fly. While this may seem amazing, what distinguishes FLYBOY from other, more comic-book oriented superhero novels is the amount of realism that goes along with an ability of this sort.
After all, what use can one truly get out of this power? As Flyboy soon discovers, his talent is more useless than anything else, and it's not until he meets a fellow superhero-in-waiting that he is able to put his power to any use. His new friend, a rather statuesque waitress, has the ability to make things disappear. Where they go after that, she doesn't know, nor does she care, until the horrific destructive capability she holds becomes clear to her. Together, our heroes decide to transform the world, in their own little ways.
That is what makes this novel truly charming. There are no super-villans, no evil despots out to enslave humanity. Instead, the fearless twosome decide to take on a right-wing newspaper, by casually removing the newspaper outlets from existence. It's the smallness of these acts, the reality of them, that allows the reader to easily bond with the characters. The heroes are not infallible; they make unwise decisions, and like most of us these days, are prone to fits of unusually harsh depression. There are no Superman heroics in sight. Those sorts of epic clashes between good and evil don't exist in most peoples lives.
What we're left with is the story of two people, each slightly eccentric, and each slowly realizing the potential people have. They aren't perfect. Indeed, they wouldn't want to be. How much fun could you have if you were better than everyone else?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Redpath on July 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
Occasionally a novel comes along that is so compatible with your life... your situation... that it just pours into you like a continuous chug of grape flavoured Kool-Aid. This was that book for me. I read it from front to back without stopping.
Munroe successfully captures the setting of urban university life that can most accurately be described here as what the tv show "Felicity" tried to do, but failed (of course that's where the similarity stops). With casual narration and often blunt conversation between characters, he describes people we've known for years, and events that have happened to us.
Through all of the crazy, yet somehow realistic Super Hero entertainment, he manages to build an intense and true relationship between the heroes. He is able to fully describe any relationships between Flyboy and the people he knows and meets in a simple sentence, or a clever dialog.
While the anti-corporation messages occupy a fairly small portion of the novel, they are incredibly blatant. They are effective, but I think the social commentary could have been toned down and presented more subtly as he managed to do in his second book "Angry Young Spaceman" (which if you haven't read, is also excellent). It just seemed like the character was rambling in a few places.
The story that is created here has so much depth that the ending seems to come too soon, like a movie that plants the seeds for a sequel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By CincinnatiPOV on August 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Aspirations of superpowers in small children are nothing new. One little boy thinks he cam fly. Another little girl thinks she can fight evil. A little boy thinks he can turn into a fly. A little girl... Wait. A fly?

Jim Munroe's Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask begins an average story about an average guy named Ryan who lives with his average roommates and is an average student and does a below-average job of picking up women. One day while at his regular haunt - the coffee house - Ryan gets up the nerve to ask out Cassandra, the waitress he has been admiring from afar.

Cassandra is less than average. She used to play in a famous punk rock band. She is an ardent feminist, sometimes lesbian and single mom. And she can turn invisible.

Average Ryan might be intimidated by this fact if it weren't for his own ability to turn into a fly. That's right, a fly. In Flyboy, Ryan discovers early on in childhood that he can indeed turn into a fly.

Now before you go off assuming that this is some modern-day remake of David Cronenberg's 1986 hit The Fly, know that in this tale boy meets girl and girl does not shoot boy as he turns into some grotesque creature. In fact, Flyboy is only a small part science fiction, believe it or not.

When a girl who can turn invisible meets a boy who can turn into a fly, there is no other choice than for the two to become superheroes.


If those argument is not a reasonable one to you, than neither will be most of the plot of Flyboy. However, if you can accept this shaky premise, then Flyboy makes for what is actually a sweet, though quirky, story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Burgoine on August 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gas Mask," was a title I only finally picked up when a friend of mine shoved it into my hands. Jim Munroe is a Canadian, and I always try to give fellow Canucks a fair shake, but the title made me blink away from the book. My mistake.
First off, the surreal plot set up for the book makes you think you're going for an odd story with lots of laughs: Our hero Ryan can turn into a fly. His girlfriend from the diner can make objects disappear, and had a baby from an alien father. Much fun ensues, right?
Well, yes, but not entirely. Starting off with a fun romp at fighting Corporate Power (the big evil of the twenty-something crowd), and striving for the Feminist Ideals (the big good of the twenty-something crowd), the book has pep and hilarity and a trove of other enjoyable moments.
Then things go deeper. Ryan's mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, and from there the story, while still light on many levels, takes a more serious turn that sneaks up on you and keeps you hooked right up to the end. Some very heavy topics are brought up in this book, as well as some lighter pokes at those things my age-group tends to consider "Important!" with a capital I.
I will definitely grab a copy of "Angry Young Spaceman," which is Munroe's second novel. If you're in the mood for some semi-serious social commentary with a lighthearted twist, snap up "Flyboy." Just be prepared for strange looks from people if you read it on the bus.
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