Three For Thursday: Aliens Among Us

for this Thursdays bite-sized reviews, we have three alien stories–all three feature aliens on Earth.  Though what they’re doing here and what they want from us will depend on the book you read . . .

1.

 Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn by Greg Leitch Smith, illustrated by Andrew Arnold (Roaring Brook Press, Expected Publication 2014)

Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher.

In this alien caper story set at the Cape Canaveral coast, Aidan and his UFO crazed friend Louis witness a real live UFO event.  This sends the boys into a wild hunt for answers at the Mercury Inn where Aidan’s family lives and works.  With their new friend Dru, the boys find themselves hit deep in rumors, conspiracy theories,  avid journalists hungry for the story of a century, and, of course, actual aliens.

Generally speaking goofy science fiction usually turns me off.  It’s either too silly or too predictable.  This is neither.  The author pulls readers into a world of outlandish characters (some that even got a chuckle out of the adult me) and twists and turns in the plot that don’t quite go as I’d have expected.  It’s fun rather than deep, but the author’s put a good deal of time into making it a decent story with some actual science fiction elements and explanations for things.  My biggest complaint is that the largest plot twist is a bit of a doozy and I felt there wasn’t quite enough leading up to it in terms of foreshadowing.

Quite entertaining despite my original doubts.  Younger middle grade and reluctant readers are likely to gravitate to it, though more mature readers looking for deeper plots and characterization may find it a little on the thin side for their tastes.

2.

The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson (Walden Pond Press, 2013)

Missing time.  Then, missing people.  Then, an entire town simply vanished off the map.  What is going on?  Two kids think they might know the answer.  Haley has noticed a pattern of missing time and missing people and thinks a project with the Fellowship over her summer vacation will look good on her college applications.  Dodger has been hearing broadcasts from a town that doesn’t exist . . . and now he’s determined to find out what they mean, and what happened to Juliette, NZ.  Two kids on their summer project quickly find themselves blocked and discouraged at every turn–someone doesn’t want them to solve this mystery!  An intricate plot of conspiracy, invasion and mind control creates a breathless adventure for kids to join in.

A few quick, off the cuff reactions .   The book is X-Files for kids!  And there’s no doubt that  this author knows his science fiction references.  Anyone with a knowledge of Sci-Fi literature and movies and pop culture will recognize a cartload of references in this story.  There’s a lot of appeal here for those who enjoy alien conspiracy theory/thriller and adventure stories.  However, at over 400 pages long, it’s a doozy of a read.  I felt that the momentum was not so much lost as badly tangled up somewhere in the middle, and it took some effort to get through to the climactic finish.  A satisfying ending for our heroes, and a wild ride–but not a good fit for reluctant readers who won’t stick with the story for the payoff.

3.

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World by Henry Clark (Little, Brown Books, 2013)

It all starts with a mysterious sofa and zucchini-colored crayon.  River, Freak and Fiona  never thought it would lead to them in a desperate race against time to stop an evil plot to take over the world!  It turns out there’s an intergalactic mastermind trying to open a portal to summon his alien armies and conquer humankind.  A town full of flash mobs,  secret agents with dog disguises, crayon auctions and sentient furniture–never has saving the world been so bizarre!

This delightfully strange romp of science fiction and fantasy is quite a trip.  For the most part, it’s an enjoyable–if silly–adventure that pits kids against evil from another world.  I enjoyed the absurd aspects, and can even forgive the worst pun of the book (though I did groan at it).   To be honest I wouldn’t have much critical to say if the story had remained in that absurd tone.  But there are a few too many super serious elements of the plot. The protagonists of the story have all suffered major losses in their lives as a result of our villain’s misdeeds.  There’s no absurdity in this background, it’s painful and serious, and while I think that can work for some stories, it feels out of place substantially changes the tone at times.

For older middle grade readers who can follow the plot twists and make sense of the humor–this isn’t going to have universal appeal, but should find its audience without too much trouble.

So there are my three!  Comments welcome.

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on March 14, 2014, in General Posts, Reviews, Three for Thursdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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