Munroe, Jim 1972-
MUNROE, Jim 1972-
Adbusters (magazine), former managing editor; author.
Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask, Harper-Collins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
Angry Young Spaceman, No Media Kings (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 2001.
Everyone in Silico, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 2002.
Canadian author Jim Munroe has lived in South Korea, Vancouver, and the Annex neighborhood in Toronto. He has made a name not just as a science-fiction writer but as an anticorporate activist who disengaged himself from a contractual agreement with HarperCollins for his second novel. Munroe is the former managing editor for Adbusters magazine, which cut at the culture of corporate consumption with slashing satirical articles. In keeping with his passionate stance against media consolidation, he created his own imprint—No Media Kings. His quirky Web site is designed to promote his work; advise authors on the pros, cons, and how-tos of self-publishing; and express his subversive viewpoints about media monopoly. In an interview with Jeffrey Yamaguchi of Bookmouth.com, Munroe noted that the publicity surrounding his rejection of Rupert Murdoch's huge conglomerate "was a good media hook, but it helped that I had a slick website, a marketing plan, and a political motivation."
When Munroe's first novel, Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask, hit the shelves, reviewers seemed to appreciate his fresh, humorous style. "Don't read this book on public transit, in a doctor's waiting room, or anywhere else where people will stare at you strangely if you start laughing out loud," wrote Heather Ganshorn for Resource Links. Peter Darbyshire commented in Quill & Quire that the book is a "genuinely hip, young, and urban tale. Forget about all the other fiction that poses as slick and cool, forget the stylish authors that promise to be the voice for the next generation and then fail to deliver.… Munroe will be the writer to watch."
The central character in Flyboy, Ryan, is a twenty-two-year-old, quirky but likable University of Toronto student who has the secret ability to turn himself into a fly. He meets Cassandra, a bisexual punk-rocker waitress who can make things disappear and who had an alien lover by whom she has a clairvoyant toddler daughter. The loners become lovers, discuss their deepest secrets, and decide to become superheroes. Donning costumes and calling themselves Flyboy and Ms. Place, they fight the forces of social injustice—cigarette companies, conservative mainstream media, sexist cops, and laws against marijuana. Meanwhile, they must deal with the usual personal issues faced by young college students. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented: "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." However, one reviewer for Booklist described the novel as "witty and sensitive," while Roberta Johnson, also for Booklist, wrote: "This is a Gen-X novel to treasure."
Munroe's second book not only became his first self-published novel, it was also available as a free download from his Web site. The book's plot elicited excited reviews from the likes of Bonnie Schiedel, who wrote in Quill & Quire: "As an allegory, Angry Young Spaceman isn't particularly subtle, and as the title implies, it's not intended to be.…And when Munroe takes aim at the management and co-opting of subcultures, the satire is dead-on and more intriguing." This story is set in 2959 and its twenty-something hero, Sam Breen, is angry and disillusioned by the powerbrokering of Earth, which now has political control of the entire universe. The only way Sam can escape Earth's ultraconsumerism is to head for the far reaches of the galaxy. He ends up in the underwater world of Octavia to teach English as a foreign language to its eight-legged inhabitants. However, the catch for Sam is that Earth's push to assimilate the entire galaxy by enforcing English as the universal language, so he finds himself torn between his escape route and perpetuating Earth's control.
Adrian Baker wrote in the online Danforth Review: "The fact that Angry Young Spaceman is self-published may not seem to have anything to do with the actual content of the book. However, much of Sam's dislike for Earth is based on their need to control and license intellectual property." Becky Olshen commented in a review for Bookreporter.com: "The great thing about science fiction is how it turns a sledgehammer into a scalpel.…And if that novel is rich and well written enough to stand on its own, message or no message, that's even better.… Munroe so deftly weaves progressive politics into an engrossing story that you barely notice he's doing it."
In Munroe's self-published third book, Everyone in Silico, every aspect of life in 2036 Toronto has become corporatized. Lori Hahnel made note in the DanforthReview about the "long tradition of novels whose ideals follow the high road, novels that comment on the nasty underbelly of the human condition in our society." She named Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's 1984, and Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange among them. Munroe's third novel is one such book, she commented, "in spirit if not in execution."
In Everyone in Silico, individuals in a post-scarcity, consumption-obsessed society can trade their messy, organic life on a polluted Earth for a digital existence where anything is available for a price. Self is the ultimate computer program into which the favored few can have their brains uploaded and to exist mentally in a gigantic utopian computerized space called Frisco. "Your experience of Frisco depends on what package you can afford," wrote a reviewer for GoodReports. net, "with lowly silvers and golds being subject to relentless advertising while platinum members get to surf banner-free. But people start wondering where their bodies are." A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that "Munroe exuberantly studs the action with grotesque extrapolations of politics and advertising that most people accept unthinkingly." The reviewer for GoodReports.net contemplated the fact that Munroe not only expresses his disdain and dislike for the evils of consumerism, globalization, and corporate conglomerates, but, by self-publishing, is acting upon his philosophies. And, the reviewer asked, "Can big publishing produce books as original as this?"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 1999, Roberta Johnson, review of Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gas Mask, p. 513; January 1, 2000, p. 819.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Everyone in Silico, p. 1173.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July, 2000, Charles de Lint, review of Angry Young Spaceman, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, October 4, 1999, review of Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask, p. 65; August 27, 2001, review of Angry Young Spaceman, p. 61; September 2, 2002, review of Everyone in Silico, p. 58.
Quill & Quire, February, 1999, Peter Darbyshire, review of Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask, p. 33; May, 2000, Bonnie Schiedel, review of Angry Young Spaceman, p. 30.
Resource Links, October, 2002, Heather Ganshorn, review of Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask, p. 54.
Danforth Review online,http://www.danforthreview.com/ (April 7, 2003), Adrian Baker, review of Angry Young Spaceman; Lori Hahnel, review of Everyone in Silico.
Digital Web,http://www.digital-web.com/ (April 7, 2003), James McNally, review of Everyone in Silico.
Montreal Mirror online,http://www.montrealmirror.com/ (June 14, 2003), Juliet Waters, "Jim Munroe's Guide to Interplanetary Publishing Success."
No Media Kings Web site,http://www.nomediakings.org/ (April 7, 2003).