Susan Gates again: A Brief History of Slime (London: Puffin, 2003).
Susan Gates again! I'm still not convinced by her as a writer of juvenile sf but she is far and away the best writer of sf for "younger readers" (ie up to the age where they decide that kissing isn't embarrassing) I've read so far.
In A Brief History of Slime Smiler goes to stay with his grandfather who has set up a Laugh Camp in an iron fort. The camp only has one guest/inmate, Coriander, whose parents have been convinced she can go because they have been told laughter will improve her grades.
Smiler has problems of his own because his friends no longer laugh at his jokes--they think them infantile. The problem is that so does he and he can't find new ones.
Meanwhile there is a fake clown who is out to rescue head lice from the destruction of a mad scientist who hates all head lice [he specialises in campaigning for unattractive species], who turns out to be his mother, who has found a super-headlouse on the head of a neanderthal boy who has been attracted to the future by the mangetism of the iron fort. The portrayal of the neanderthal boy is particularly good: he imports his own life skills and is getting on very well in the twenty first century.
Looked at in the cold light of day, the book is a complete load of tosh, but it is very sf-nal tosh, and I've always maintained that sf is in the attitude of mind, not necessarily in the science. Smiler and Coriander work out what is going on, Coriander knows loads of "stuff" that help her in this and Smiler offers the curiosity so they make a good investigative team, and there is loads of consequence, because, while they have been worrying about giant headlice and glow in the dark rabbits (who are last seen breeding in a hillside) some small molecules of prehistoric metal eating sea slime who came in with the limpet eating cave-boy are breeding like crazy in the sea.
It would be the end of civilisation as we know it. Could anything stop it?
Limpets could. Shellfish had helped bring the first Slimy Empire to an end. Now they were needed again.
While Smiler and Coriander cloud watched, a deadly battle was going on under the waves.
Who will win? Will limpets eat all the slime mould and save the world? Or will the slime reach the shore and set up Slimy Empire II?
Who knows what it'll much first? It could be computer circuits. Or even railway lines. So look out for secret warning signs.
If computers start crashing or trains get delayed, you'll know the limpets lost.
No recursion here, and plenty of material with which to drive parents mad.