Flashback Fridays: Close encounters of the stinky kind . . .
Posted by Stephanie Whelan
You’re an alien warrior who is forced in the middle of a battle to land on earth and hide out in the body of an earth creature. The only creature available at the time is small black and white mammal with a tendency towards stink attacks. So now you’ve got to find a way to get help, sneak into NASA and hitch a ride back home–as a skunk.
Do you remember:
Stinker from Space by Pamela Service (Fawcett, c1988)
Thinking back to the 80s, this was when the SF drama of E.T. was fully in the minds and hearts of kids. The stranded space alien who needs human kids to help him get home again. This story takes on the stranded alien idea–but here we have no simple, loveable creature. Instead we have a space warrior who’s suddenly trapped in the body of a skunk. This make our alien encounters more humorous, a bit more mundane, and bit more tricky. Fortunately, our two young protagonists are up to the challenge!
Tsynq Yr is fighting a galactic battle. (This book has one of my science fiction pet peeves, a name that’s pretty impossible to pronounce. ) When he’s forced to land on Earth, he must adopt the body of an Earth creature in order to survive. The creature he chooses in those desperate moments is that of a skunk. From there, our stinker from space seeks out the help of two kids–Karen and her friend Jonathan–who are willing to help their peculiar friend. They’ll have to go through some crazy schemes, uniting the local skunks and sneaking alien “Stinker” onto a rocket base to hitch a ride on a space shuttle. It’s a lot of fun, and a great adventure to boot.
There’s even a sequel:
Stinker’s Return by Pamela Service (Atheneum, 1993)
It’s not as good as the first, and pretty much has our alien return to Earth still in skunk form so that he can obtain a souvenir for a demanding space despot. There’s a great deal more silliness in this story than there was in the first adventure.
It should be noted that these books were meant for younger readers who were just cracking longer chapter books. I read the first book as a kid and revisited as an adult. The kid me loved it, there weren’t enough alien stories around to satisfy my reading appetite, and ones that were funny and fun to get into really delighted me. The adult me must admit it’s a story without a lot of meat on its bones–it’s pretty thin storytelling for older readers who want more complexity and detail. The adult me also must admit that this is one of those science fiction works that doesn’t age well. Our technology has far surpassed the limits in this story. Jonathan, our “computer whiz” seems very dated and out of place in a world with cell phones and Internet connections. Likewise NASA ended the space shuttle program some time ago, so this won’t sound modern or relevant to today’s readers.
Pamela Service is a writer who has continued to produce books of speculative fiction for children and teens for the past few decades. Quite a bit of her work is still available on the shelf–especially her more recent alien stories. Her Alien Agent series has six books published from 2008-2011 about an alien boy who grew up thinking he was human, but now finding out he’s an alien training to be an alien agent on Earth to help other alien beings. Most of Ms. Service’s work tends towards the adventurous and fantastic with less focus on the technology or futuristic stories depending on science. In fact, my favorite works by this author may be her apocalyptic future fantasy in which tech is being overtaken by magic once again, and Merlin and Arthur both reemerge to fight evil in the new landscape.
I can thoroughly attest to this writer being one of my early influences in science fiction and fantasy, so I’m glad to still see her works on the shelves when I’m at the library!
Any other Pamela Service fans out there? Comments welcome!
About Stephanie WhelanI'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.
Posted on April 26, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged Aliens, Animals, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Children's Literature, Lists, literature, MG Books, Middle-Grade Fiction, Pet Peeves, Reading, reviews, Science Fiction, sequels, SF. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.