I remember the first time I read William Sleator’s Interstellar Pig. Well no, I don’t remember the first time exactly, but I remember the shelf in the Pembina Trail public library where I got it from. It was in the first summer that library so close to my house was open and I was pulling books from the broader Science Fiction section as opposed to something in Children’s. I don’t know if it would still be in the general SF section; it felt much younger-focused than I remember. But I enjoyed it.
Barney is on vacation at the beach with his parents. They are vapid socialite wannabes who don’t really notice how much he would rather be reading SF in the dark than sitting out on the beach working on his tan (you can tell it’s an old book because everyone cares about tans and no one’s thinking about cancer). Strangely attractive neighbours move in next door. They’re kind of odd and play a SF board game called Interstellar Pig and are very curious about the cottage Barney is staying in. Barney has to deal with some interesting situations as it turns out the game is more real than you’d have guessed (because the neighbours are aliens).
Sleator does a great job with the aliens’ speaking, using just slightly off words that are obvious to me but just close enough for young-Justin to have not noticed exactly what was weird about it. The pacing is really quick. I remember it being a story of a whole summer of stuff happening, but it actually all happens in a few days. The parents are dopey in that way that parents in fiction with strong young protagonists have to be (I felt the mom’s characterization was especially uncharitable at the beginning) and the consequences of the story in real life (aside from cleaning up the house) don’t really come out very clearly. And Sleator is more of a storyteller than a game-designer. The boardgame doesn’t quite hang together right, but whatever.
The lack of cell-phones (and the aforementioned lack of skin cancer worrying) are the only things that really date the book, and I’d say it holds up pretty well.