Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review - The Search for Snout by Bruce Coville

Short review: Rod Albright and his cousin Elspeth are back from dimension X, but BKR is still up to no good, and Snout is missing. Naturally, Rod joins the Galactic Patrol and sets out to solve both problems.

Snout has gone missing
Smorkus escapes, must be foiled
Crew turns renegade

Full review: The Search for Snout follows Aliens Ate My Homework (read review) and I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X (read review), covering the ongoing adventures of Rod Albright and the diverse crew of the star ship Ferkel. The story follows directly on the events in I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X as Rod returns home with his cousin Elspeth from his adventures defeating the nefarious BKR and the gargantuan Smorkus Flinders to visit his mother and deliver the unpleasant news that he has joined the Galactic Patrol and is going to leave immediately in search of his missing father and try to figure out what happened to their missing crew mate Snout.

The story that ensues is sort of a junior league space opera. The evil villain BKR escapes from the Patrol ship he is being transported on, and taunts the crew of the Ferkel with his escape. Rod's cousin Elspeth stows away and is caught, Smorkus Flinders escapes from suspended animation and takes over the ship only to be foiled by an unexpected way, and Rod starts receiving mental communications from Snout. The crew is forced to make the tough choice about whether to turn renegade, and Rob discovers a new and completely unanticipated friend (sort of).

Along the way, of course, Rod learns several valuable lessons. But Coville also shows some interesting places and deals with some interesting ideas even though this is a book aimed at younger readers. Despite the fact that BKR is a villain whose evil plan is so insane it could only make sense in a space opera, it does sort of make sense from that perspective. The ending, which clearly is intended to set up further adventures for Rod and the rest of the crew of the Ferkel, has a twist that I didn't anticipate until well into the book, which is pretty sneaky considering the age range the book is intended for.

The only criticism I have of the book is a continuing comment on one of the themes that repeats through much of Coville's work that alien life is almost always portrayed as morally superior to humanity - aliens are nicer, more tolerant, more peaceful, and simply more civilized than the brutish barbaric humans. This book diverts that somewhat by throwing in a twist on humanity's actual place in the galaxy, but it doesn't change the main thrust which is that modern human culture is simply populated with barbarians that the cultured aliens need to hold their noses to deal with.

Coville is a prolific writer of juvenile fiction, and quite skilled. Skilled enough, in fact, that when he avoids falling into some formulas he relies on at times, his best work is at the top of the field. This story is among his best work. Any young reader who is fond of science fiction will probably love The Search for Snout.

Previous book in the series: I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X
Subsequent book in the series: Aliens Stole My Body

Bruce Coville     Book Reviews A-Z     Home


  1. Great review! Coville is one of my favorite authors, but I haven't read this one yet. Will definitely pick it up! :)

  2. @Alyssa: In my opinion this series is some of Coville's best work.

  3. I loved this series as a kid, it really sparked my imagination and doubtless paved the way for things like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in later years. My version of book three was cautiously re-titled 'Aliens Stole My Dad,' because 'snout' was apparently 90s British jargon for drugs. I can't say I would have made the connection at ten.

    1. @Dave: That's interesting. I've never heard of that particular slang usage before.