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Literature / Alice's Birthday

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Alice's Birthday (Russian: День рождения Алисы) is a children's sci-fi novella by Kir Bulychev, first published in 1974.

Alice gets a birthday gift from old family friend Gromozeka: she is to join his archaeological expedition to Koleida, a planet whose inhabitants died out from a mysterious disease (suspected to be the deadly space plague) a hundred years ago. When the researchers from the Institute of Time confirm that it was the space plague, Gromozeka offers Alice to travel to the past and spray the space plague vaccine over the astronauts that brought the virus from space. Professor Rrrr, a specialist in historical linguistics who looks like a one-eyed kitten, says he will accompany her, disguised as a normal cat, and the two of them rush to the past.

The novella contains examples of:

  • Believing Their Own Lies: Tolo's mother gets so thrilled about her son's arrival and about herself helping Alice that she really begins to believe that Alice is her daughter.
  • Birthday Episode: The one piece in the series to focus on Alice's birthday.
  • Future Imperfect: After Alice fixes the past, she finds out her actions are remembered only as an eccentric action of an enthusiastic woman (back then, it was mistaken for an assassination attempt).
  • Multinational Team: Taken up to eleven with the interplanetary archaeological team on Koleida, where the archaeologists each have a different number of "arms, eyes, and even heads".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Tolo, the Koleidian flight engineer, goes into space to fix the ship's fuselage which gets damaged by a minor meteorite strike. While doing so, he catches the space plague and becomes patient zero of the epidemic that wipes out the planet. Thankfully, the epidemic is stopped in the new timeline.
  • The Plague: The appropriately named space plague that can wipe out entire planets (such as Koleida in the old timeline). Prior to the recent invention of a vaccine, there was no escape from it.
  • Samaritan Relationship Starter: A platonic example. Alice and Rrrr's friendship begins when she saves him from being trampled by the crowd of archaeologists.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Alice and Rrrr go to the past to prevent the space plague from killing every living thing on Koleida.
  • Speech Impediment: Mikhail Petrov speaks with a stutter.
  • Unwanted Gift Plot: Discussed. Professor Seleznyov recounts that he has heaps of identical unwanted gifts (eight ties, three dinghies, fourteen lighters etc.) he received on various holidays and carefully hid from view.