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The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson

The Butterfly Kid (1967)

by Chester Anderson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Greenwich Village Trilogy (1)

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1255142,938 (3.82)5



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Chester Anderson’s The Butterfly Kid is listed as the number one weirdest science fiction novel ever written. With the likes of such bizarre sf whoppers as Dr. Bloodmoney, Ubic, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer, A Voyage to Arcturus, Panda Ray, Flesh and Gold, Dhalgren, Time Snake and Superclown, to name just several (I’m sure avid sf fans could list many other out of sight titles), that’s really saying a mouthful.

I suspect The Butterfly Kid got the nod for its combination of hallucinations from acid trips materializing to create pandemonium all through New York City, giant blue alien lobsters speaking impeccable English, and a torture machine that forces its victims to watch the complete adventures of Donald Duck on a wide screen with full sensory participation.

And that’s just for starters. Once this groovy (THE all-purpose adjective - keep in mind the novel published in 1967), supercool Greenwich Village hippie hipster narrator gets going, there's no stopping him. The Butterfly Kid makes for one fabulously fun read with the following flashing, swirling strobe light highlights:

CHESTER: None other than author/musician/hip philosopher Chester Anderson is the narrator and main star of this literary show. That’s right, Chester wrote himself into his own novel. Interestingly, its Chester’s observations on human nature that prove key to his understanding the ways he can take action to deal with menacing outer space aliens.

One of my favorite Chester quotes from when he realizes the orchestra playing Handel's Water Music behind him in the hallway is his own personally drug induced hallucination: “Every now and then a false note rang out through the otherwise exceptional ensemble. Not a wrong note, mind you, just a slightly out of tune one. Bassoon, from the sound of it. This bugged me mainly because, the orchestra being merely an external figment of my own imagination, the false notes were my fault. The implications were humiliating.”

THE DUDES: Chester also wrote good friend Michael along with a few other of his pals into the novel. Michael is one of the heroes in this tale (once he roused himself from snoring in his sleep, that is). Also worth noting, Michael J. Kurland is a prolific author of science fiction and wrote The Unicorn Girl, sequel to Butterfly. The third volume in this modish Greenwich Village Trilogy is The Probability Pad by T.A. Waters.

THE BUTTERFLY KID HIMSELF: Fresh from Fort Worth, Texas, young guitar playing Sean manifests all varieties and sizes of butterflies right there in broad daylight in Washington Square Park. Turns out he isn’t a magician; he dropped a super colossal LSD-type hallucinogenic “reality pill.” Too bad the John Voight character also fresh from the state of Texas didn’t likewise have "reality pills" courtesy of aliens in the 1969 film, Midnight Cowboy - if he did, he and Ratso Rizzo could have had some real fun in the Big Apple.

HORNEY HONEY: Of course, being a hippie in Greenwich Village involves getting nude, getting stoned and having loads of great sex. Sativa is a singer in Chester’s rock-n-roll group The Tripouts. Sativa is lovin’ the sex with her new sweetie pie – none other than the aforementioned tall, handsome, blonde Sean who crashes in Chester’s pad. Chester figures all those wild sounds Sativa is making in the next bedroom with Sean are good for her singing voice. That’s the way to put a positive spin on it, Chester!

STRANGERS FROM A STRANGE PLANET: As the book's author, our main man shifts his imagination to overdrive in coming up with those aliens who plot to take over the world with the help of "reality pills." Not little green men from Mars but ten foot lobsters who can change colors, from blue to pale green to iridescent. And the way the head lobster speaks, I bet he has a British accent.

THE BAD GUY: There’s Laszlo Scott the poet wannabe who is in league with the aliens. Our Greenwich Village author gives Laszlo the ultimate wicked quality for the villain – he stinks like a skunk on a bad day. And Laszlo’s loft looks like a trash heap with loads of misspelled anarchist slogans scrawled on the walls. Laszlo’s redeeming qualities are . . . well, sorry to say, he has none. The dude changed his name from an all-American kinda name to Laszlo Scott when he came to NYC cause he thought it was cool. If Laszlo only knew his ultimate fate, I suspect he would have spent his time bathing and reading quality literature rather than planning the conquest of the human race. What some no-talent poets won't do to grab the spotlight.

SAVING THE WORLD: : Would you believe the climax to this hippie novel features dozens of groovy, far-out technicolor hallucinations creating an upbeat 1960s version of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds? Dig it, baby, with the future of the human race on the line, Chester and his band of stoned longhairs come through with flying Peter Max psychedelic colors.

FUN FACTS: Chester's hippie bus in The Bufferfly Kid (see below quote) predates that famous bus of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters by exactly one year since Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was published in 1968. Hippie buses and vans were the thing back in those swingin' sixties. A second fun fact: although Chester sets his novel in the late 1970s, the language, attitudes, fashion and culture all belong uniquely to the sixties.

"That was our most treasured possession, that bus. It was an old Army surplus ground-effect troop carrier, made in 1969 or so and obsolete before delivery, that we'd converted into a mobile rock-n-roll dream pad. It could seat sixteen and sleep dozens, depending on how friendly they were, and was equipped with hot and cool running everything. . . . We toured the Midwest in it last summer." - Chester Anderson, The Butterfly Kid ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
This is set theoretically in the then-near future, with a Kennedy as governor of New York (perhaps, Robert, as it was written in 1967) but the "feel" of the story is intensely that of the "60s" hippy scene in Greenwich Village. Personally, I was only very distantly on the fringe of this culture, and only in New York a few years later, but the basic cultural pattern seems very real -- semi-pro bands and poets, coffee-houses, casual sex, marijuana, all seen from a mildly sardonic viewpoint. However, the scene very shortly tops over the edge into unreality, beginning with a boy who makes butterflies and moving on to characters creating an 18th century orchestra and a whole pantheon of hippy gods and goddesses, and then the discovery of a relatively subtle and strongly non-violent alien invasion. All of it is delivered with deadpan wit, ( )
  antiquary | Apr 17, 2018 |
There is no real way to explain why I like this book as much as I do. It's fairly lightweight science fiction, set among a bunch of hippies in Greenwich Village. Because honestly, if aliens were going to invade, wouldn't that be the best place to start?

My enjoyment starts with the author's note, where he says that the protagonist is named Chester Anderson because it bugs him when he reads a book written in first person and the author and the protagonist have different names. (It may help that I first read this at a time in my life when I spent significant time trying to figure out how the Autobiography of Malcolm X could have been written by Alex Hailey.)

There are vivid, funny characters, sharply described comic scenes, and a genuinely touching denoument. This isn't a book of great themes or classic literature, but it is well written, funny, and I go back to it every few years. It's because of this book that I insisted that my mother take me to Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park on our first trip to New York, an experience that amazed me and horrified her. (I was young, she was cynical; good times.)

Finally, I get a kick out of having found the entry for this book in The Science Fiction Book of Lists, which notes it is the only book to have sequels written by two different authors, neither of them the original. (I see these are now packaged as The Greenwich Village Trilogy. This saves me the trouble of finding a copy of the SFBoL every few years, to see if I can track down the sequels.) ( )
  teckelvik | May 21, 2013 |
1967. Hippies, the Village. Awesome book. Aliens come and introduce a psychedelic drug that makes your hallucinations real. They plan to use it for world domination. Hippies find out about the plot and set out to stop them by using the drug against them. ( )
  kylekatz | Sep 6, 2007 |
Bug-eyed aliens seek to conquer the Earth without themselves shedding a drop of human blood. How do they plan to do this? By releasing a drug that makes the user's hallucinations real. A slyly funny book that turns the 60's upside down and in the process twists science fictional convention on its ear. Quite enjoyable.
  pipecad | Jul 4, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chester Andersonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kidd, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morrow, GrayCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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