When Admiral Skink, an alien-lizard warlord from the planet Swerdlix, is attacked by The Hideous and Unimaginably Vast Comet Creature of Poppledock he faces a certain death...but luckily his underlings have installed the BrainTwizzler 360 Mind Migration SystemTM. This nifty invention safely transfers Skink's mind on to a memory wafer and jettisons it through space to find a suitable temporary "home" until he can be rescued by his fellow Swerdlixians. Unluckily for eleven-year-old Lance Spratley it just so happens that the temporary home for Admiral Skink's mind is his body! And while Skink deals with being trapped in Lance's useless body - it can't even breathe fire! -- Lance is transferred to a virtual waiting room surrounded by the lizard race who seem intent on destroying Earth when they have successfully retrieved Skink. Will Lance ever get his body back? And even if he does will he be able to thwart Admiral Skink and the Swerdlixians plans to invade Earth...
I first heard about this book through my sister who, knowing the author through her work as a voiceover artist, asked me if I had heard about it. A quick google and one email later and a copy soon arrived courtesy of the ever lovely Kat at Simon and Schuster. I am trying very hard to read more books for the 7-10 age group this year, and I am succeeding in this mission. I just need to find the time to write the reviews now, as there are so many fantastic books being released for kids at the moment, but it seems to be the YA books that get all of the press.
Space Lizards Stole My Brain is a zany, off-the-wall addition to this ever growing list of great children's books that deserve more attention from the media than they are getting. I am currently re-reading Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's books* and slipped reading Space Lizards in between The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and The Restaurant At The End of the Universe, just to see how it compared against two of the very best science fiction comedy books ever written, and I was pleasantly surprised. To say that Mark Griffiths is a new Douglas Adams (albeit for a younger audience) would be incredibly premature based upon this one book, but the early indications are very promising indeed.
Space Lizards tells the story of two very different
people enitities organisms characters. One is Admiral Skink, intergalactic warmonger extraordinaire, and the other is Lance Spratley, 11, from Cottleton. Admiral Skink is the bloodthirsty, merciless Grand Ruler of the Swerdlixian Lizard Swarm, hellbent on nothing sort of galaxial domination. Lance is your normal, intelligent, geeky science nerd, who has a passion for maths, computers and "the occasional game of Zork Bullfree - Slayer of Astromoops.", passions he shares with his friend Tori.
At the beginning of the story Skink, his battle cruiser, and all its occupants are destroyed by the Hideous and Unimaginably Vast Comet Creature of Poppledock. Fortunately for the evil Admiral, one of his now-dead underlings fitted him with A Braintwizzler 360 Mind Migration System, and on death so his complete consciousness and memories are fixed into a memory wafer that is then jettisoned into space, eventually to crashland on the nearest habitable planet, and transfer said memories into the brain of the nearest suitable living organism. Unfortunately for Lance.... yes, you guessed it. After falling into the crater caused by the falling wafer, Lance awakes to find himself inside a virtual world within the wafer, whilst his body is up and about containing the mind of a lizard alien.
Al kinds of madcap antics follow, as Skink comes to terms with inhabiting an vastly inferior body frame, and having to suffer the shame of being bullied, and spoken down to by Lance's rather nasty mother. If only he can get his hands on the wafer then he can activate a homing beacon that will bring his vast fleets of Swardlixians to the rescue, at which point he can get a new lizard body and proceed to destroy the Planet Earth. Lance, meanwhile, has to survive the virtual Fear, Pain and Misery Specialists who want to torture him into revealing all the weaknesses of his species, and then somehow get back into his own body and save the planet. It's a good job that he is smarter than your average 11 year old!
7+ boys and girls will love this book, especially if they are into programmes like Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures. It is fast-paced, laugh-out-loud funny and just great Fun (with a capital F!). What's more, there is a sequel scheduled for August, delightfully titled Space Lizards Ate My Sister (and let's face it, every boy with an annoying younger sister has wished for this, or something similar, at least once).
*Thanks to author Barry Hutchison who pointed out on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that the complete set of Hitchhiker's books for Kindle was being sold for a ridiculously low price - more about these books in a future post.