Literature / Rod Albright Alien Adventures
Rod Allbright Alien Adventures
, also known as the Aliens Ate My Homework
series, is a children's series written by Bruce Coville
in The '90s
. It tells the story of sixth-grader Rod Allbright, whose life is changed forever when a tiny spaceship crashes into his room and he's recruited to help its occupants in their mission of capturing an intergalactic criminal who's been hiding on Earth for some time.
The series consists of four books:
- Aliens Ate My Homework (1993)
- I Left My Sneakers In Dimension X (1994)
- The Search for Snout (titled Aliens Stole My Dad in the UK) (1995)
- Aliens Stole My Body (1998)
This series provides examples of:
- Alien Arts Are Appreciated: In the first book, it's mentioned that the Galactic Patrol has monitored Earth's broadcasts for years (in part to create language modules for their agents who need to go there). Madame Pong is noted as being familiar with, and liking, the character of Sherlock Holmes.
- Alien Lunch:
- Tar Gibbons likes to grab little flying bugs out of the air for his snacks.
- In book 2, while being held in Castle Chaos, Rod and Elspeth are fed a horrible-looking mess that appears to be mostly plant parts. The "best-tasting" thing is a red sphere described as tasting like a mixture of chocolate and olives seasoned with mucus.
- On the other hand, Dimension X is also home to kispa-dinka, which resembles boiled macaroni and grows in the sky. When Rod finally tastes it, he finds it sweet and slightly spicy, and quite enjoys it.
- Book 3 reveals that Grakker's people raise worms to eat. Later in the book, Rod is mentioned to have found a couple of alien dishes he likes, including scrambled squibbish, which resembles "moldy rat tails sauteed in eyeball sauce". Elspeth, when convinced to try it, says it "tastes like chicken".
- Book 4 includes a vegetable that resembles a purple potato... but it moves on its own and has to be "killed" before it can be eaten. (Cutting it in half is sufficient, and it doesn't make any noise.)
- Annoying Younger Sibling: She's actually Rod's maternal cousin, but Elspeth McMasters fills such a role in books 2 onward. Played straight with Spar Kellis who, when he sees her behavior, mentions he has a sister like that.
- Birds of a Feather: BKR and Smorkus Flinders are good friends and partners because they're the two most evil and vicious criminals in each other's respective dimensions.
- Bittersweet Ending: BKR is ultimately stopped, the Allbright family is finally united, and Rod will even be able to return to space in the future. However, the entire Ferkel crew must stand trial going against the Galactic Patrol's orders, and their ultimate fate is left up in the air, though they state that their finally bringing BKR to justice as a result of disobeying orders will also be taken into consideration.
- Bizarre Alien Sexes: Tar Gibbons, as seen below:
Gibbons: I am neither male nor female. I'm a farfel.
Rod: Is that more like a boy or more like a girl?
Gibbons: Actually, it's more like a pippik than anything.
- Bond Creatures: According to Seymour, a Chibling's first life directive is to find and bond to the first sapient creature they encounter. After that, they're partners for life, or until so firmly rejected that they give up and die.
- Cannot Tell a Lie: Rod. That's why the first book is named such. The one significant time he does lie, at the end of the first book, BKR sees through it.
- Cool Starship: Pretty much all of them, but special note goes to Ah-rit's ship, the Jean (named for his wife), which is described as sleek and powerful.
- Cryo Prison: In The Search for Snout, placing troublemakers in suspended animation is used as a punishment aboard the alien ship Ferkel. It's also said that BKR's gang will probably just be put back in suspended animation after their trial.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: As discussed in book 4, negatrons (a powerful force generated by negative thinking) do this, having a subtle but deeply destructive effect that slowly wears away at everything around them. BKR apparently spent some time trying to channel them into a weapon, but is never confirmed to have had any success with it.
- Direct Line to the Author: Aliens Stole My Body begins with an author's note stating that Rod is the real writer and Coville just publishes the manuscripts that Rod sends him occasionally. The same note theorizes that Rod chose him either because he already had a reputation for publishing alien stories, or because they live in the same area.
- Disappeared Dad: Rod's father left his family three years before the first book under mysterious circumstances, and hasn't been heard from since. It's because he got word that BKR was on his way to Earth and fled the planet to keep certain crucial information out of his hands.
- A Dog Ate My Homework: Or rather, "Aliens ate my homework." It was actually the truth (specifically, Grakker had decided a piece of paper in Rod's desk - which, as it turned out, was the math assignment due that day - would make a good snack), but due to the circumstances, it came across as a Refuge in Audacity joke.
- Easily Impressed: The twins, being only three, are this. Rod notes that they react with awe just from things like flashing lights or equipment that makes noise during their tour of the Ferkel.
- Eldritch Location: Dimension X, home of Reality Quakes, a portal network and a layer of macaroni-like stuff that naturally grows in the sky.
- Energy Economy: The intergalactic currency units are energy credits. The captain even refuses a detour since the energy required would use more energy than his crew makes in a year.
- Evil Is Petty: BKR is implied to be Space Hitler and starts the book in his latest scheme — bullying children at an elementary school.
- It should be mentioned that according to the aliens, the worst possible crime is cruelty, because unlike other crimes which might have mitigating factors, if you're cruel, it's because you willingly choose to be.
- Fantastic Honorifics: The "Tar" of Tar Gibbons is an honorific meaning "Wise and beloved warrior who could kill me with his little finger if he so wished."
- For the Evulz: Everything BKR does is for this, such as his plan to merge our dimension with Dimension X and his later plan to freeze time. Grakker notes in both cases that BKR is well aware that he would be affected just like everyone else, but as long as he can hurt people, he just doesn't care. And in the latter case, when time stops forever, he'll be frozen at the exact moment of his greatest triumph.
- Homage: The overall series outline draws inspiration from the first four Star Trek movies: book 1 sets up the plot, book 2 has a character with psychic abilities apparently dying partway through but ultimately revealed to be Not Quite Dead, book 3 has that same character getting better after his crewmates disobey orders from their superiors (not to mention the title being a direct reference), and book 4 has the characters finally returning home after a long and difficult mission that saves the world from a terrible fate, and facing a trial for their actions afterward.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Rod and his siblings... sort of. Atlantean human/human, anyway.
- Human Mom, Non-Human Dad: Mother is human; father is... well, actually human as well. Thing is, he's an Atlantean human, off a different genetic road.
- In Which a Trope Is Described: Book 1, chapter four, is titled "In Which I Become an Interstellar Criminal".
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: Rod points this out when the Tar asks to be referred to as 'it', but as it points out, it is neither male nor female, making the corresponding pronouns wrong and therefore insulting in their own right.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The perpetually cranky Grakker has a Hair-Trigger Temper and can be quite vicious, but he is genuinely a good person, and way better than his nemesis BKR.
- Large and in Charge: It's stated that Smorkus Flinders became the leader of the monsters in Dimension X simply because he was the biggest.
- Living MacGuffin: Rod's brain contains the final component BKR needs to complete his Time Bomb.
- Lizard Folk: Snout's species look like anthropomorphic lizards and are even hatched from eggs. However, their hat is that they're especially proficient in mentalism and telepathy.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: When Rod undergoes a mind probe by the Ting Wongovia, he experiences the other being's memory of hatching among his three-hundred and fifty-eight egg-brothers and egg-sisters, including Flinge Iblik/Snout.
- Neuro-Vault: In The Search for Snout, it's revealed near the end that the main character has a secret piece of data in his brain that will allow the villain to literally destroy time.
- Not So Different: Despite coming from the same utopian society as the good aliens, BKR has the same barbaric traits humans are accused of having, and he proves himself to be far worse than any Earth-based species.
- Parental Substitute: For much of the series, Rod is the only father his twin siblings Linda and Eric have. Somewhat downplayed in that they still have their mother.
- Percussive Maintenance: Problems with the crew's language implants are usually solved by a good whack to the back of the user's head by Madame Pong.
- Plant Aliens: Phillogenus esk Piemondum (Phil for short) is a dead ringer for a sunflower.
- Psychic Powers: The Mentat trains its students in these. Among other things, Mental Masters can connect to other's minds to read or implant information. Snout even manages to slow down time for Rod for a minute or so, giving him time to duck an enemy's punch.
- Really 700 Years Old: Rod's father is actually 35,000 years old. But through suspended animation and relativity, he's physically around eighty.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Grakker delivers one to Elspeth in book 2 when she tells him "You're not the boss of me!". While it goes unheard by the reader, Rod describes it as Grakker telling Elspeth "exactly what he thought of her attitude, her antics, and her lack of discipline".
- Sarcastic Confession: By accident. "Aliens ate my homework" was the honest truth, but as Madame Pong pointed out, it was such a bizarre explanation that nobody could be expected to take it seriously.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: At one point in book 1, school bully Arnie Markle tries to have his dad sue Rod's mother, because Rod (with a little alien help) ducked Arnie's fist and he broke it against the school's wall. While there's no way that it would hold up in court, Rod's mother mentions that she can't afford the trouble.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The crew's decision to travel on to the Mentat rather than follow the Galactic Patrol's orders in the third book.
- Seeing Through Another's Eyes: In book 4, when he finally establishes a mental link with Snout on his own, Rod sees through Snout's eyes. Later, after getting transferred out of Seymour's body and back into his own, he finds he can still see through Seymour's eye as well.
- Series Continuity Error: Book 1 states that BKR has been on Earth for twelve years. However, book 2 states that Rod hadn't seen his father in "nearly three years", and book 3 subsequently states that Ah-rit fled when he found out BKR was on his way to Earth. If the latter is true, either the "twelve years on Earth" part is an error on the part of the Galactic Patrol, or BKR's time on Earth was retconned to be much shorter. Then again, it's also said that BKR had been looking for Ah-rit for almost ten years at that point, so it's possible he just dropped out of sight when Ah-Rit did and the GP assumed he was on Earth all that time.
- Sharing a Body: Rod winds up doing this with Seymour for the last chapter or so of The Search for Snout and much of Aliens Stole My Body. During this time, he finds he can temporarily seize control of their shared body, but only does it in an emergency - i.e., when others' lives are at stake. He gets his own body back in the next-to-last chapter of the latter book.
- Shrink Ray: Nearly all starships seen in the series are equipped with these, letting them go to a smaller size and back. The Ferkel goes from bigger than a house to about two feet wide when it's shrunk; if used on a person, they're anywhere from one to four inches high, depending on their natural height (two inches is the default; Smorkus Flinders could only be brought down to four due to his naturally immense size, and the three-year-old Allbright twins were down to one inch due to their naturally small size).
- Single-Biome Planet: Averted entirely. Discussed when Grakker mentions growing up in a swamp and Rod asks if he comes from a swamp planet.
Grakker: Do you come from a swamp planet?
- Starfish Aliens: The cast includes Tar Gibbons (member of a multi-gendered species), Phil the Plant, and Edgar/Seymour (member of a symbiont species which splits into two bodies as part of its life cycle). On the psychological side, Captain Grakker uses a computerized implant to experience different moods. Known modules include "diplomatic", "docility", "berserk", "battle" (which Tar Gibbons thinks is poorly programmed), "judicial" and "open mind". A "patience" module is also mentioned, and apparently they had more than one of it on hand - Madame Pong notes early in The Search For Snout that she needs to requisition a new one, because Grakker's short-circuited his way through their entire inventory.
- Steven Ulysses Perhero:
- BKR's alias on Earth is Billy Becker.
- Ah-rit Alber Ite changed his name to Arthur "Art" Allbright when he settled on Earth.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Due to the Bizarre Alien Biology of the Starfish Aliens...
- Of the five alien crew members, two are roughly male, one female, one plant that uses male pronouns, and one with no equivalent in Earth's biology that considers male or female pronouns insulting. When Rod's cousin asks Madame Pong why there is only one female, she explains that the sheer diversity of species and genders means they don't even pay attention to that kind of thing anymore.
- Tragic Monster: Smorkus Flinders, BKR's friend and partner, was once a kind and decent person until he was caught in a particularly horrific Reality Quake and turned into the monster he is. Unlike BKR, who simply does what he does For the Evulz, Smorkus Flinders does what he does as a way of lashing out at life and the universe for what they did to him.
- Translator Microbes: The language implants used by the crew to speak English (though they don't seem to be perfect). Rod, Seymour and Elspeth also get them so they can speak Standard Galactic.
- Time Stands Still: BKR's ultimate goal.
- Title Drop: Both "Aliens ate my homework" and "I left my sneakers in Dimension X" appear in dialogue or narration of the first two books. Averted with books 3 and 4 though.
- Ultraterrestrials: In The Search for Snout, Rod believes his Disappeared Dad was an alien, but upon meeting him in space, finds out that he's a scientist from Atlantis who traveled into space before it fell, became immortal, and had adventures on alien worlds before returning to live on Earth (and then he disappeared to keep his family safe from BKR).
- Unskilled, but Strong: As noted in the second book, Smorkus Flinders' fighting skills are mediocre; as the other monsters named him their leader purely because he was the biggest out of them all, he never had to fight much. That being said, he's big enough to literally stuff a human into his ear canal, and has the Super Strength to match.
- Wham Episode: The final chapter of I Left my Sneakers in Dimension X reveals that Rod's absent father is an alien and a member of the Galactic Patrol.
- When Dimensions Collide: Book 2 reveals that BKR and Smorkus Flinders were working on this, intending to create a permanent door between Dimension X and Dimension Q that would eventually fuse them into one dimension "where reality can shift like sand". However, after Smorkus Flinders is taken into captivity and BKR subsequently escapes from custody, he decides to focus on one of his other, older plans.
- Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: The villain named BKR. Yes. That's his full name.
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: It's mentioned in the first book that energy credits are galactic society's basic unit of exchange. "Makes more sense than gold," Grakker comments (rather condescendingly) to Rod. "Not much you can do with gold once you've got it."
- You Are Not Ready:
- When Rod asks why Earth has not been asked into the League of Planets, he's told that humans are considered warlike and borderline insane by the other species of the cosmos.
- We learn in The Search for Snout, however that the League of Planets only emerged after 1000 years of war between its future member species, so that might be a bit of hypocrisy.