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Literature / The Voyage of Alice

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The Voyage of Alice (Russian: Путешествие Алисы) is a 1974 children's sci-fi novella by Kir Bulychev. It is one of his most recognizable works about Alice, Girl from the Future, the Fountain of Memes adaptation certainly helping things. It is also the first one to feature many prominent characters and locations.

Professor Seleznyov goes on an expedition to collect new animals for his zoo, taking Alice with him. They get accidentally caught in a mysterious conspiracy involving the heroic team of the Three Captains (only one of which is now confirmed to be alive) and the govorun, a talking bird that used to belong to the Second Captain.

The book contains examples of:

  • All-Natural Gem Polish: The diamond turtle's shell is made of cut and polished gemstones. It may, of course, have something to do with the fact this specimen is a robot, but, according to Professor Seleznyov, diamond turtles really are like this.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The inhabitants of Sheshineru are green-skinned humanoids.
  • Animated Adaptation: Was turned into The Mystery of the Third Planet in 1981.
  • Ascended Extra: Poloskov and Zelyony, having briefly appeared in The Girl To Whom Nothing Will Happen, become the fleshed-out characters everyone would love from this book onward.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Tons of examples among sentient and non-sentient life forms.
    • Gromozeka has clawed tentacles, three legs, eight eyes, a trunk, and three hearts (one of the hearts, and he can't tell which one, is badly affected by valerian).
    • The bushes from Aldebaran's eighth planet sing whenever a sandstorm is coming and are able to move in search for water.
    • Govoruns are two-beaked birds who can survive in space and fly between planets.
  • Boring Return Journey: The voyage from Moon to Medusa takes almost the entire novella. The voyage back takes several small paragraphs.
  • Breakout Villain: This novella introduces Rat and Jolly U, who would go on to be the Big Bad Duumvirate for many more books to come. It clearly wasn't planned initially by the author, since by the end of the book Rat is captured and awaiting justice and Jolly U is dead.
  • Character Narrator: Professor Seleznyov narrates the story (with a single exception, a chapter in third person describing events Seleznyov doesn't witness and only learns about afterwards).
  • Characterization Marches On: The space pirates are different even compared to their next appearance in One Hundred Years Ahead.
    • With the attempted genocide of two planets (Bluk and Shelezyaka), they are a lot crueler in the novella than in any of their later appearances.
    • Their behavior implies that Jolly U is the smarter leader and mastermind and Rat the dumber second-in-command. In the following books, it quickly changed in favor of the traditional Fat and Skinny dynamic.
    • Jolly U easily spouts philately trivia. That's the only time in the franchise he shows any expertise at anything beyond piracy.
  • Confronting Your Imposter: Rat in Verkhovtsev's guise is literally unmasked by none other than Verkhovtsev himself.
  • Cool Starship: The Second Captain's Blue Seagull has amazingly strong engines and is made of diamond alloy, whatever that is, that renders her invincible to any potential intruders. She is also very beautiful, painted in blue and silver colors.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Alice when she visits Arcturus Minor. The scouts on the station miss little children so much she decides to oblige them and behaves way more childishly than usually.
  • The Eeyore: Zelyony. His catchphrases are "This won't end well" and "I warned you".
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The govorun and the indicator don't trust the diamond turtle in the slightest.
  • Fantastic Drug: The time travel pills of Sheshineru.
  • Fantastic Flora: The Third Planet is full of it. There are mirror flowers (or rather, filming flowers), gossiping flowers, fighting flowers, flowers growing in the air, and dozens of others.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: Four years before the plot begins, the three captains go their separate ways.
  • Frame-Up: It turns out Dr. Verkhovtsev is entirely innocent.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Alice gets on wonderfully with all the animals in the collection, from the govorun to the robotic beasts from Shelezyaka.
  • Genocide Survivor: The villains attempt to kill a particular bird by exterminating its entire species. The bird they are after seems to be the only survivor.
  • Heroic Suicide: The Second Captain, barely holding on after four years of imprisonment, decides that, if help doesn't come in time, he'll blow up himself and his ship to ensure the pirates never get the fuel formula.
  • Just Following Orders: Jolly U tries to assure everyone he was just an Unwitting Pawn in Rat's hands. Nobody believes it.
  • Kick the Dog: Jolly U trips up the indicator when the latter tries to help the govorun.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: There is a reason why this book is recommended as one of the first to be read in the Alice cycle. If you have read the later books, such as One Hundred Years Ahead or A Million Adventures, it will hardly take you long to figure out why Dr. Verkhovtsev takes turns being Not Himself.
  • Married to the Job: Played with concerning Vsevolod and Ella's marriage. Vsevolod is working on changing the orbit of Venus while Ella is chasing exotic animals through the galaxy. In the end, they resolve it as he goes on a new voyage into the outer space and she says she'll accompany him because she doesn't want to be separated from him for a long time again.
  • Mechanical Animals: Robots from Shelezyaka build robotic animals to make their planet look more natural. They give several of these to Alice and her father, and it's mentioned that the animals take a liking to Alice (her father sees her cuddling a mechanical cat).
  • Planetary Relocation: Project Venus, a venture to move Venus farther from the Sun and make it habitable. In the ending, one of the characters mentions that the project is almost completed, but it's never brought up again in the other books of the franchise, so it remains unknown whether it really was a success and what the exact results were.
  • Rewatch Bonus: When Seleznyov meets Dr. Verkhovtsev on Bluk, he notes, among other things, that the latter seems to be even thinner than he remembers him. You realize the significance of it when you know it's not the same Dr. Verkhovtsev from the Three Captains' Museum.
  • Rule of Three:
    • There are three heroic captains.
    • The Medusa System has three planets, of which the third is the most interesting one.
  • Spanner in the Works: The president of Fiks goes to visit Dr. Verkhovtsev right when Rat in Verkhovtsev’s disguise attacks a Fiksian ship. This is the only reason Dr. Verkhovtsev isn’t accused of space piracy.
  • Sustained Misunderstanding: Due to a mix of Poor Communication Kills, coincidences and a frameup plot, Dr. Verkhovtsev and the Pegasus crew suspect each other of being in a criminal conspiracy.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The villains need to silence one govorun bird. Their solution? To kill each and every govorun on Bluk they can find, and then to try to destroy the planet's atmosphere. The latter is not just monstrous but useless, since govoruns are able to survive without air. Not to mention that the bird they actually target escapes the massacre.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: Entire planets of them. Aldebaran's eighth planet, the Empty Planet and Sheshineru have nothing to do with the main plot whatsoever (except being first brought up by Dr. Verkhovtsev). To a lesser extent, Arcturus Minor – the scouts from its base do provide a clue related to the Three Captains, but it's not crucial. There is a reason all of this got Adapted Out from the movie.
  • When Trees Attack: Denied water, the Sierra Barracuda bushes can get pretty violent.