It's the summer of 1994 in suburban Chicago: Forrest Gump is still in theaters, teens are reeling from the recent death of Kurt Cobain, and you can enter a sweepstakes for a spaceship from Jupiter to land in your backyard. Welcome to Margaret Wappler's slightly altered 90s. Everything's pretty much the way you remember it, except for the aliens.
When a flying saucer lands in the Allens' backyard, family patriarch and environmental activist Ernest is up in arms. According to the company facilitating the visits, the spaceship is 100 percent non-toxic, but as Ernest's panic increases, so do his questions: What are the effects of longterm exposure to the saucer and why is it really here?
The family starts logging the spaceship’s daily fits and starts but it doesn't get them any closer to figuring out the spaceship's comically erratic behavior. Ernest’s wife Cynthia and their children, Alison and Gabe, are less concerned with the saucer, and more worried about their father’s growing paranoia (not to mention their mundane, suburban existences). Set before the arrival of the internet, Neon Green will stun, unnerve, and charm readers with its loving depiction of a suburban family living on the cusp of the future.
|Publisher:||The Unnamed Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Margaret Wappler has written about the arts and pop culture for the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Elle, The Believer, The Village Voice, and several other publications. Her work has appeared in Black Clock, Public Fiction, and the anthology Joyland Retro. Neon Green is her first novel. She lives in Los Angeles.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love how the kitschy sci-fi premise of a 1990s environmentalist whose fight with corporate America begins with a spaceship landing in his yard becomes a transcendent family drama about the hazards, both environmental and emotional, of being human. I related to Ernest and his family so, so deeply, and the writing was beautiful enough that I found myself rereading certain passages just to savor the language.
Neon Green by Margaret Wappler is a highly recommended alternate history novel set in 1994 in Prairie Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and follows the Allen Family, Ernest and Cynthia, and their two teenagers Alison and Gabe. In this 1994, you can enter a sweepstakes to have a spaceship from Jupiter land in your backyard for 9 months, give or take a few weeks. Everything else is the 1994 you remember. Ernest Allen, environmental activist and family patriarch, is indignant that Gabe entered the contest and actually won. Once the spaceship lands in their backyard, he is outraged and immediately corners Gabe, the only person over 16 who would have dared enter the sweepstakes. He then starts calling New World Enterprises, the company sponsoring the spaceships. First he wants them to remove it because he is sure that the ship is not environmentally safe and is dumping toxins into their yard every time it dumps gallons of neon green fluid onto his lawn. The EPA has declared it is safe, and Ernest has now real recourse, except to nag New World with phone calls. What kind of environmental footprint is this thing leaving? He also has his family start a journal to record everything the spaceship does, including it's almost nightly show of lights and beeps and any discharge of the green liquid. They do this, but they also record other, less serious things, much to Ernest's consternation. He is very serious about the log. Ernest becomes increasingly obsessed and paranoid, inflicting his family with his daily preoccupations and diatribes. He really thinks that everyone should feel the same way he does. This obsessing is an on-going pattern for Ernest. Ultimately, this is not a novel about the spaceship or aliens. It's a dysfunctional family saga. It's about how one man's obsession is affecting his whole family, and making them all suffer needlessly because he needs to blame something. Ernest may be freaking out over the spaceship, but he could just as easily be obsessing over the effect high voltage power lines and/or electromagnetic fields could have on his family's health. Wappler's story is quite funny at times, especially Gabe and Alison reactions, but it is also heartbreaking. I really grew to dislike Ernest and felt that if he was really that serious, he should have tried to move. I would imagine there would be some kind of real estate market for a home with a spaceship in the backyard. He was so focused on it that he completely lost track of what he claimed to care about - his family - until it was too late to save what was left. My heart broke for Cynthia. She still loved him, but she deserved better from Ernest. Neon Green is well written, but it also seemed to move slowly. This is a novel for those who like literary fiction involving a dysfunctional family in a unique setting. It isn't a novel for fans of science fiction. The spaceship is there, but it's simple a large visual representation of Ernest's character trait of obsessing over various subjects. Gabe and Alison were highlights. Neon Green could be a good choice for a book club because I imagine there are alternate views. Based on your devotion to environmental causes, you might appreciate Ernest much more than I did, and accept his flaws much easier. Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.