I've accumulated a lot of ridiculous books over the years - from thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, and dumpsters - and I can no longer bear to hoard their weirdness for myself. Presenting the fourth in an occasional series of book reviews exploring the far corners of the Toon library...because the world must know!
I'm the father of three daughters. I've shared my home with a lot of Barbie-oriented material over the years. No matter how much we nudge the girls toward the little toy carpentry sets and the Green Lantern action figures, they still gravitate toward the leggy plastic blonde in the pink box. In all that time, believe me, I have never seen anything like this. Believe it or not, Barbie: Voyage to Rados is an honest-to-Ken licensed Barbie product, not some kind of Internet art prank.
After I got over the slackjawed, stammering shock of the cover, I cracked it open and found out that the hovering, pink-Afro'd starchild is a native of Moda-5. That's the planet that Barbie and her ever-youthful sister Stacy live on in the year 2190, for Barbie is eternal. Man is still alive, and woman did survive, but many of us emigrated to Moda-5 a century earlier hoping to learn the secrets of Modan telekinesis. Turns out we're not very good at it. But the Earthling expat community endured despite mutual animosity between humans and Modans. Don't let the smiles fool you - they're just laughing at each other's accents.
A water shortage on Moda-5 necessitates Barbie (a renowned geologist, of course) and Stacy (pride of the Junior Star Catchers) taking a trip to an unexplored planet, Rados, in search of the wet stuff. They're taking along an R2-D2 knockoff named Dork (for real) who speaks in rhyme due to a faulty language chip. Oh, and they have to bring a few of those creepy Modans along. Stacy's reaction is hardly a model of interstellar brotherhood: "Double yuck!"
Sure enough, the seething, purple surface of Rados yields some crystals that just might be "compressed water". After an argument between Barbie and head Moda-dude Thorba over the risks of transporting the crystals telekinetically, they take some samples back to the ship to run some tests. Barbie and Stacy learn a thing or two about the crystals of Rados...and about the emotions those Modans conceal behind their gilded gasmasks and bedazzled cloaks.
Danger strikes! On the trip home, proximity to a black hole sends Thorba and Modan child Franka into a catatonic state. Barbie's diagnosis is "energy shock". What's worse, Rados itself is being pulled into the black hole, with all its precious compressed water! Barbie springs into action. Initiate healing sequins!
Not only do the Modans wake up feeling refreshed, but the involuntary nap did their telekinetic powers good. They use their enhanced mental strength to pull Rados out of danger. Now if they could just do something about those hairdos...
Ten thousand humans and Modans crowd into Cosmos Plaza to welcome the returning water-carriers. "The Modans were chatting out loud with the humans. No one seemed to notice anyone's accent. 'They sound like old friends,' Barbie thought. 'Mission accomplished.'" Take heart, persecuted ethnic minorities: to be accepted as equals, all you have to do is save your entire planet from dying a slow death of thirst.
I have no idea who Mattel thought would buy this book. But I'm glad some frustrated SF writer got to pay the rent with her own mini-Dune. I'm glad Barbie never once talks about clothes or boyfriends. I'm glad some budding nerd girl out there may have gotten her hands on this and realized there are a lot of toys outside the pink aisle. And I'm glad that these photos exist - because somewhere, if they haven't been destroyed, there's a cache of colored Barbie heads with pink curls and jeweled robes. Anybody got a Modan-modded Barbie they'd be willing to part with?
For more book-scavenging fun, see: