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Literature / Rod Allbright Alien Adventures

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Rod Allbright Alien Adventuresnote , 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.

A live-action film based on the series was released on March 6, 2018. A sequel, titled after book 4, was released on August 4, 2020.

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:

  • An Alien Named "Bob": Phil the sunflower-looking Plant Alien has the only human-sounding name (albeit as a shortened form of his real one) among the alien crew of the Ferkel.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: An occasional problem with the Translator Microbes. When Smorkus Flinders says BKR is planning to build a "time bomb", he doesn't mean an explosive with a time-delayed fuse, but a device meant to destroy time itself. When Grakker decides to punish Elspeth for stowing away, he says he'll "keep her in suspense", which she thinks means he's going to torment her by not telling her what the punishment will be, but what he really means is that he's going to put her in suspended animation.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License Economics: Using energy as a form of currency. While it makes sense from a "you've got it if you need it", it ignores the basic purpose of currency: to act as a medium of trade. If the currency itself is valuable and expendable, then it will be consumed when needed, which will result in wild fluctuations in the actual value of the currency. Put it this way: if energy is abundant enough that everyone has all they need, then you don't need currency because you're in a Post-Scarcity Economy. If energy is not abundant enough that everyone has all they need, then it's a commodity, not a currency: you shouldn't be asking whether or not to consume your money to light your house or give it to someone else to buy food.
  • 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.
    • In book 3, when Elspeth questions her about gender equality on the Ferkel, Madame Pong explains that there are so many genders across the different worlds, such a thing isn't an issue on individual ships, and that one vessel could have up to sixteen different genders represented on its crew.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: The title itself of I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X is this. It takes until the very end of the book before we learn what it means. After giving his stylish new sneakers to the giant, Spar Kellis, which he got not long before the book began, Rod simply shrugs and remarks to himself that after everything that happened, the fact that he left his sneakers in Dimension X should be the least of his mom's worries.
  • 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.
  • Cassandra Truth: Late in book 4, BKR questions his prisoners about the whereabouts of Rod's brain patterns. When Madame Pong admits the truth, BKR finds her answer so ridiculous that he refuses to believe it.
  • Classified Information: Grakker has a habit of using this as an excuse not to reveal certain information. Examples include why they didn't come looking for BKR sooner, specifics about BKR's crimes, his real height (apparently he felt divulging their true size would make them vulnerable), and what exactly the ship's "Mental Officer" means. He eases up as time goes by, but in book 2, after trying to use it to avoid explaining why Smorkus Flinders is so mad at him, he gets it flung right back at him by the Ting Wongovia, who uses it to decline explaining why he was in Dimension X instead of his home dimension.
  • Conscription: The Galactic Patrol has this, and it gets brought up on two main occasions.
    • First, in book 1, Grakker effectively drafts Rod into being a local deputy. Rod doesn't realize he meant it at first, and thinks being called "Deputy Allbright" is just Grakker's way of bossing him around. It's not until book 2, when it's casually mentioned that they have a record on him, that he realizes he really is an official member of the Patrol.
    • Second, in book 3, Grakker tells the story of how he met Snout and BKR, and explains that his cousin Rakfratz had put his name in as a candidate, and he was summoned to his homeworld's capital take the qualifying test. Said test has a point where, if you score above it, GP service is mandatory; Grakker scored over a hundred points above, and was thus drafted and shipped off to their training academy.
  • 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. At Elspeth's protests over being "frozen like a bag of peas", they explain that suspended animation capsules don't literally freeze their occupants, but the basic idea remains the same.
  • 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 — and BKR is pretty much The Sociopath.
  • Extra-Dimensional Shortcut: At some point in the distant past, someone discovered a means of skipping between dimensions as a means of reducing travel time, and it's now the norm for space travel.
  • Fantastic Honorifics: The "Tar" of Tar Gibbons is an honorific meaning, roughly, "Wise and beloved warrior who can kill me with his little finger if he should should so desire."
  • Fantastic Livestock: Giant worms are commonly ranched for food in Galactic society. Captain Grakker tells a queasy Earthling that consuming animals as intelligent as cows and pigs is just as offputting to them.
  • 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.
  • Giant Footprint Reveal: Rod and his tagalong cousin find a new, oddly shaped "crater" in a field near his house. Rod, who's aware that aliens exist and visit Earth sometimes, finally realizes what it is, and is still trying to convince his cousin that they're in danger when they're both kidnapped by a very Large and in Charge villain from Dimension X.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: In book 3, while Rod is traveling on the Ferkel, he and Madame Pong try to program the ship's food system with things that are edible to humans. Color and texture are easy, but taste is not, and Rod specifically mentions that its first attempt at chocolate chips tastes like "a combination of chicken, blueberries, and earwax". He then notes that he's just guessing on the last part — he's never actually tasted earwax. "But this stuff had a bizarre and horrible undertaste, and that's as good a way to describe it as any."
  • 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.
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: 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.
  • 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.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: This is discussed in I Left My Sneakers In Dimension X. At one point Rod and Elspeth are imprisoned in a castle in Dimension X and are given some weird alien plants to eat. Elspeth starts freaking out that it might be poisonous or do something horrible to their insides. For some reason, Rod takes extreme offense at this and, after taking a bite out of a plant and finding out it tastes horrible, deliberately tricks Elspeth into eating some, even though she was completely justified in having such fears.
  • 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.
  • Parent Never Came Back from the Store: In book 3 (The Search for Snout), while in suspended animation, Rod dreams about the windy October night when his father said he was going out for a walk and never came back. Justified in this case — Mr. Allbright had gotten wind that his enemy BKR was on his way to Earth and was trying to draw BKR away from the planet in order to protect his family.
  • 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.
  • Shark Fin of Doom: Variant in book 4. When Snout is about to go diving, Rod spots a massive fin slicing through the water towards him. It turns out to belong to a creature resembling a sea serpent rather than a shark though.
  • 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?
  • Sneaking Snacks: Rod's inability to lie comes from the time he swiped one of his mother's famous chocolate cookies, despite her telling him he couldn't have one, and tried to deny it when she caught him. The resulting punishment (time-out in a corner) for lying ensured he wouldn't lie again until he has no other choice, during a life-or-death confrontation with BKR in the first book.
  • 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. She even lists a hypothetical case of a ship where sixteen different genders are represented.
  • 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, and book 3 comes close with the line "a search for the missing Snout" at one point. Averted with book 4 though.
  • 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 — Madame Pong explains that they were created after years of monitoring Earth's broadcasts, and alien words slip through a few times without direct translations, such as when Snout exclaims "Flibbing!", which Rod thinks must be their equivalent of "Eureka!"). Rod, Seymour and Elspeth also get implants of their own in The Search for Snout so that they can speak Standard Galactic.
    • In I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X, when Rod asks Spar Kellis how the latter is speaking Rod's language, Spar Kellis reveals Rod is in fact speaking his language — "If you travel between dimensions the right way, it alters your brain so you can understand the beings on the other side."
  • 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.
  • Villainous Friendship: BKR and Smorkus Flinders are noted to be legitimately friends, not just partners. This is partially because they're the most evil and vicious criminals in their respective dimensions.
  • Weird World, Weird Food: The constant reality quakes in Dimension X make it a strange place even by intergalactic standards. However, a giant, floating, macaroni-like food grows abundantly in the sky; it's both a local staple and quite palatable to human visitors.
  • 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.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Smorkus Flinders. He started out as a normal, Nice Guy, but was turned into a gigantic, hideous monster by a "reality quake", and basically wants revenge on the whole multiverse for his plight.
  • 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. However, we learn in The Search for Snout that the League of Planets only emerged after a thousand years of war between its future member species, so that might be a bit of hypocrisy.

Alternative Title(s): Aliens Ate My Homework, I Left My Sneakers In Dimension X, The Search For Snout, Aliens Stole My Body, Rod Albright Alien Adventures