Little Green Fiction

Little Green Fiction

Before John O. Banion's life took an extraterrestrial turn, he had it all: a Princeton degree, a wife named Bitsey and his own Sunday network interview show during which he grilled guests from the president of the United States on down. He was on the A-list for Washington parties. That was before Nathan Scrubbs, a depressed, hard-drinking member of the government's ultra top secret UFO abduction service, decided to snatch Banion.

The plot vehicle of author Christopher Buckley's fourth novel is that UFOs — from the famous Roswell, N.M., incident in 1947 to alien abductions of supermarket tabloid fame — are simply another entertaining service brought to you by your federal government. Promulgating the notion that aliens were among us has bolstered public support for funding the space and military budgets and made the Russians nervous that the United States had acquired out-of-this-world technology from crash-landed flying saucers.

As long as the alien faithful (and abductees) were Iowa pig farmers or trailer park housewives, the level of belief in extraterrestrial life was kept at a manageable level. Here is Scrubbs choosing Maggie, a typical candidate for abduction: "Scrubbs studies the chubby face before him on the screen. She was wheeling a shopping cart that contained enough sucrose to sweeten the whole country's coffee for a week. There was one of her brood, lumbering along behind her, eating a — Jesus — was that a raw hot dog?'' Maggie's new life is not without benefits: "One minute she's comparison shopping at Walmart, the next she's the homecoming queen at a UFO convention, giving weepy testimony that beings from the great beyond thought she was special enough to mess with her ovaries.''

However, snatching a talking head like Banion, not once but twice, and probing his body cavities to boot, is an abduction of another order. In no time he is the leader of a three-million strong Millennial March on Washington, demanding that the government hold hearings on alien abductions and UFOs. The entertainment is just beginning.

Buckley's generally humorous prose, recognizable Beltway caricatures (Burt Galilee, for example, is a Vernon Jordon clone) and fast-paced plot make this a fun and easy read. Although there is a modicum of food for thought in this satire, there isn't enough to keep it from making the A-list of this summer's beach books. It goes down nice and easy, like sweetened iced tea.