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The Mystery of the Frozen Brains

by Marty Chan

Marty Chan hates secrets. They make his stomach churn. The bigger the secret, the harder it is to hide, and Marty is sitting on one “elephant of a secret”: he thinks he’s an alien.

Adapted from Chan’s radio series, The Dim Sum Diaries, the story is set in a French Canadian town in rural Alberta. The town and certainly Marty’s school are the epitome of Canada’s two solitudes. The French and English students are ritualistically brutal to each other and, as the only Chinese kid, our hero doesn’t fit into either camp. By the time we meet him, Marty is already convinced that his parents are aliens. Given Marty’s cultural isolation, his overwrought nine-year-old imagination, and the fact that he’s using an old UFO magazine as reference, his conclusions are entirely plausible. Marty even convinces his very first friend, Remi Sasseville, that an alien invasion is imminent and that the local French priest is in on it. Will the boys find out where Marty’s parents have parked their spaceship? Will they retrieve the stolen brains of their classmates in time, and finally, will they be able to stop the invasion?

This deceptively sweet, goofy story explores belonging and isolation with humour and candour. Marty complains that everyone, including his parents, treats him like the lone red sock in a washing machine full of whites. So when all the clues are in and Marty has to choose between his parents and the earthlings, his budding friendship with Remi leads him to choose the earthlings – a heartbreaking but credible choice.

Chan joins an increasing and welcome trend of dramatists turning their hands to novels. His dialogue is crisp, the narrative sparkles with autobiographical honesty, and his story illustrates that there are lots of different ways to be an alien.