Author: Clete Barrett Smith
Genre: Science Fiction, Middle Grade
Publication date: June 2012
Hardcover: 304 pages
David is looking forward to spending another adventure-filled summer at his grandmother’s Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast–a vacation hotspot for aliens. But as soon as he meets Grandma’s new repairman, an alien named Scratchull, he becoms suspicious. The only problem is that it is difficult to be sneaky when you have a ravenous alien pet attached to you. Even though no one else–including Grandma–thinks that Scratchull is an underhanded handyman, David decides to spy on him. But no one believes David when he discovers that Scratchull really is an evil mastermind with a plot to destroy the planet. Without the help of Grandma and his friends, will David be able to save Earth before it’s too late?
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Aliens on Vacation/Intergalactic B&B series
How did we get this book: Bought & Review Copy from the Publisher
Why did we read this book: We were hugely surprised by the awesomeness of the first book in this series, Aliens on Vacation, so naturally we couldn’t wait to start book 2.
It’s summer again and David (the kid formerly known as Scrub) is back at his grandmother’s Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast – a holiday destination for Aliens. He is looking forward to visiting his grandmother, working through the summer with the visiting Aliens and above all, to spending time with Amy, the girl he met the year before. But as soon as he gets to the B&B he realises that things are not quite the same: his grandmother is busy with an upcoming town festival and Amy barely has any time for him now that she is working at the B&B. No to mention that the new repairman – an alien named Scratchull – is behaving suspiciously. But no one believes David when he uncovers Scratchull’s evil plan to destroy the Earth.
I think it is safe to say that Aliens on Vacation was one of last year’s most surprising reads. I had expected it to be a fun, adventurous romp and it totally was. But it also turned out to be a character-driven novel that focused on themes like growing up, personal responsibly, loneliness and acceptance without being didactic and without making it any less fun.
I confess I was expecting more of the same from Alien on a Rampage. But even though the book was immensely fun from cover to cover, I felt it had less of what had made the first book so brilliant.
David remains a sympathetic, endearing narrator who constantly cracked me up with his astute observations and attempts to do the right thing. It is interesting to see how he had to make such tough decisions when he is nothing but a kid – and the contrast between the very adult responsibilities that fall on his shoulders versus the fact that he is in fact a young kid who reacts to things like a young kid was very well done.
That said I felt the story was completely plot-driven with few opportunities to further develop the characters. We saw less of the fabulous grandmother (who spent much of this in a state of constant state of tearful vacillation when it came to believing in David) and way less of the wonderful Amy.
That said, kudos must be given to the writing of Scratchull – a proper funny and yet despicable villain.
Despite the criticisms Alien of a Rampage was still a very fun, laid-back book and it was a pleasure to go back to the Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast for a few hours. I shall be back next summer.
Also, please. Someone NEEDS to make this into a TV show because there is SO MUCH potential here for loads of awesome stories.
I have to completely agree with Ana’s assessment – I thoroughly enjoyed Alien on a Rampage, but it lacked the surprising depth and sparkle of the first book. Aliens on Vacation took me by surprise for all the reasons Ana mentions – the depth of character, the surprisingly touching moments that deal with growing up and feeling alone, even issues of discrimination and acceptance – but also because it managed to do so in a way that is humorous, even absurd, and with subtlety. In Alien on a Rampage, these threads are mostly dropped in exchange for more humor and absurdity, but a mostly mundane plot and less character development. This isn’t a bad thing – the book IS very entertaining – but rather a teeny bit disappointing.
That’s not to say that I didn’t like the book! There are many things to enjoy in Alien on a Rampage! I loved the addition of Snarffle, an alien puppy that has a penchant for eating berries, candy, and furniture – and whose character has a nice little twist/reveal by the end of the book (it all reminded me of Nibbler from Futurama! Aww, Nibbler.). I also love that Amy and David have grown a little bit, and a little apart, after spending a whole year away from each other in different parts of the country. When David returns to the Intergalactic B&B, he’s a little taken aback by how busy Amy is, how things have changed so much, and how he’s on the outside looking in after working so hard the summer before and learning his Grandmother’s secret.
From a plotting perspective, Alien on a Rampage is a straightforward case of ‘child protagonist discovers evil plan concocted by villain that CLEARLY acts and looks like a villain but manages to trick everyone else into thinking he’s great’. We know that Scratchull is up to no good and watch as David discovers just what the creepy, angry alien is up to. Clete Barrett Smith does a fantastic job of riling up readers on behalf of David – especially when NO ONE believes him, or when Scratchull manages to outwit the young nuisance that keeps trying to foil his dastardly plans. I also should mention that I enjoyed Scratchull’s ultimate PLAN for enslaving/destroying humanity, which is very dastardly (and wonderfully silly) indeed.
There’s a lot to like with Alien on a Rampage – it’s a fun, sweet novel that should appeal to the target audience of elementary school age readers. I’ll certainly be back for the next book in the series for the fun factor alone – but hopefully we’ll see more of that promising depth from Aliens on Vacation back in the next installment.
Ana: A solid 6 – Good
Thea: 6 – Good
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
When the taxi pulled up to Grandma’s place, I opened my door before the driver had even come to a complete stop. “Whoa, buddy, take it easy,” he said. “You’ll get there on time —it’s not going anywhere.”
Then he stopped at the curb and got a good look at The Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast. His mouth dropped open, forming a circle that matched his wide eyes. I guess some people just aren’t used to seeing a huge Victorian-style house covered in a mural of swirling galaxies, with silver spaceship sculptures jutting up all over the front yard. Especially at the edge of a forested wilderness on the outskirts of a tiny Pacific Northwest town.
“Ummm . . . okay . . . on second thought, that place looks like it could blast off any minute. I guess you better hurry up.”
I hopped out of the taxi, pulling my suitcase off the backseat. “Thanks for the ride,” I said, handing the driver a wad of cash through his open window. The driver nodded and collected the money but kept his eyes fixed on the house.
Jogging along the white picket fence, I thought about how different this was from my arrival last year. Back then the only thing I had to worry about was starting seventh grade in the fall. But that was before Grandma gave me my summer job and put me in charge of defending the biggest secret on the planet.
I stopped at the front gate and took in the view. I had been a little worried that things might’ve changed since I was last here. But everything looked to be in the right place, just the way I remembered it.
Well, okay, maybe not the right place. Grandma’s house could only be in the right place if it was hosting a Klingon birthday party on one of Jupiter’s outer moons. But it looked the same as last summer, and that was good. Seeing it again felt like coming home.
Reading Next: Advent by James Treadwell
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