The Night the Heads Came

William Sleator

Dutton Children's Books. $15.99


Late one night, Leo and his friend Tim (who wants to be an artist) are kidnapped by aliens with enormous removable heads. The aliens perform tests and experiments on the boys because, as they say, of The Others. The next morning Leo doesn't remember a thing. Tim is still missing.

Two days later Tim returns with a portfolio of wildly disturbing artwork. He is also now grown up. The aliens -- the "heads" -- have spent years taking Tim from one planet to another training him to be an artist. All because of The Others.

Who or what are The Others? Even before Tim returns, Leo's life has become hectic, with strange memories that do not seem real, the disappearance of the doctor who hypnotized him, and the unreasonable, angry behavior of Tim's father. Now Tim is back, with his collection of weird sketches which may just save the Earth. But does Earth need to be saved from The Others -- or from the heads?

Are the aliens (either set) one step ahead of Leo, or is it the other way around? In either case, author William Sleator is ahead of everyone with the "he knows I know he knows" logic, and nothing is what it seems in this parody of alien abductions à la supermarket tabloids. Leo's brisk, deadpan narration is reminiscent of the "Time Warp Trio" books by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (Knights of the Kitchen Table, The Not-So-Jolly Roger, and others) for a slightly older audience.

The Night the Heads Came is a refreshing science fiction novel, and guaranteed to be better reading than much of the media-driven series currently available for teen readers.

 

This review copyright 1997 by Wendy Morris


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