Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Review of Camp Alien by Pamela F. Service

Service, Pamela F. Camp Alien (Alien Agent #2). Carolrhoda Books, 2009.

Science fiction is a genre that, unless it's being deadly earnest and full of Message, delights in being both subversive and funny, with a sense of humor that can be dry, outlandish, or tongue-in-cheek. Pamela Service, author of the modern classic Stinker from Space, keeps third and fourth graders well supplied with breezy science fiction that might well create an SF addiction that leads to longer and more challenging fare as the years go by.

Young Zack grew up thinking he was a human kid adopted by loving human parents, but as he found out in book 1 of this series, he is actually an alien agent placed on Earth to prepare humans for future membership in the Galactic Union. As Zack tells us, "I was numb for a few weeks after learning it all , but it's odd how quickly you can get used to things." And now, just as he's looking forward to a normal, fun summer at camp, he gets swept into a mission headed by a young alien cadet named Vraj who bears a startling resemblance to a velociraptor. They must find 100 Duthwi eggs before they hatch into creatures that could cause a worldwide ecological disaster. Complicating the situation are Bad Aliens with Major Weaponry and of course campers of all types.

Zack is the perfect narrator, self-deprecating and prone to the occasional dry comment and eye-roll. He's got some fascinating alien powers, but he's wary and almost embarrassed of them rather than thrilled. The characters, plot, and events are broad without crossing the line into outright goofiness, and Service's absolute command of a certain brisk yet humorous tone (familiar to and loved by SF fans young and old) raises this series above most other SF series for this age group, a good example being the first two sentences of the book:

"Agent Sorn walked to a table in the Galactic Union headquarters cafeteria and plunked down her plate. The cafeteria's gurlg worms were never as crispy as her brood mother used to make them, but they would do."

Good stuff! Recommended for ages 8 to 11.

1 comment:

  1. I love this series! I'm a long-time fan of Pamela Service's Stinker and Stinker's Return - she definitely knows how to do funny scifi and I've been happily handing this new series out to kids ever since I bought it for our library. Don't miss Alien Expedition, the third book - dinosaurs, deserts, and loud noises!