It’s Just A Game.

Source: Wikipedia

If social isolation has an upside it’s that it gives some of us a chance to binge watch things we’ve missed. I’ve been doing a lot of reading too, although with libraries closed I’m no longer able to go and browse and pull whatever looks interesting, so I’m pretty much stuck with my own collection, which is pretty substantial but, the way things are going, I may actually run out of books I haven’t gotten to yet. I’ve revisited some old favorites too, although one of the downsides of binge reading a book you’ve already read is that it goes faster the second, third, or fifty-fourth time around, but that’s another story.

One book I’ve gone back to is one I picked up as a kid because it looked interesting and passed it around to all my friends, sort of like a disease, but in a good way. The book is Interstellar Pig by William Sleator, a young adult novel published way back in 1984, before “young adult” was a big deal. And even for the adult me it’s a fun book: a teenager named Barney is staying in a beach house and mostly bored out of his gourd when three interesting slightly older people come to stay in the cottage next door. They invite him to join them in playing the game Interstellar Pig, which they’re obsessed with. The object of the game is simple but sinister: be the player holding an object known as “The Piggy” when the game ends. All other players, and their home planets, are destroyed. Barney gets hooked too and can’t back out when he discovers he’s brought Earth into the very real interplanetary game of Interstellar Pig and that the real Piggy is very close.

What makes it not just fun but kind of timely is the sense of entrapment and isolation. Barney can’t go for help, and is forced into close quarters with three adults who not only don’t have his best interests at heart, they’re not even human.

Themes of isolation and entrapment recur throughout Sleator’s books: one of his earlier novels, House Of Stairs, is an eerie psychological story of teens trapped in a mind-control experiment. In Singularity, Sleator’s best book, published the year after Interstellar Pig, twin brothers discover a shed where time runs at high speed, and one of them decides to spend a year—which, to the outside world, is just a single night—alone in it. Time and isolation are also themes of The Boxes, published in 1998, and its prequel, Marco’s Millions, published in 2001. Sleator also wrote a 2002 sequel to Interstellar Pig, Parasite Pig, that finds Barney on another planet being fattened up for an alien’s main course.

Still Interstellar Pig is the one I keep coming back to, one I pull off the shelf sometimes to keep me company, mostly because it’s the one I have, and I can enjoy it knowing it’s just a game. Yeah. Maybe.

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13 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Holy crap! Interstellar Pig Is listed as 99.99 (hardcover) through Amazon. I might just get the Kindle version instead (it’s 0.00)

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      There must be some algorithm that’s doing that. I picked up my, admittedly paperback, copy for just a couple of bucks at a used bookstore. That’s after I lost my original copy. The Kindle version sounds like a steal.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    I feel less isolating now, Chris. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Ann Koplow

      I meant to type “isolated” Chris, but this is what happens when I’m isolating.

      Reply
    2. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      One of the best things about blogs is they’ve brought us together.

      Reply
  3. Tom Cummings

    That looks like a fantastic slate of books I’ve never heard of!

    I’m beginning to suspect that my plan to read everything ever written by the age of 55 is soon to be thwarted by reality. Is there a reverse-Singularity I can enter?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      If you pick up William Sleator’s Singularity then, yes, you’ll find a reverse singularity that can give you all the time you need to read as much as you want. Although time will get you no matter what.

      Reply
  4. Tom Cummings

    I posted something funny here a moment ago but it didn’t appear. I’ll try and remember it later!

    Reply
  5. Tom Cummings

    Wait, there it is now! 👏👏👏

    (sh*t, I thought it was funnier 🤷)

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      WordPress does this weird thing where it asks me to approve each comment before it appears, and it also makes comments less funny while they’re in limbo.

      Reply
  6. Kristine Laco

    I can’t add any more books to my reading list! My family is going to find out soon where I hide the ones I haven’t read but have hoarded. God help us when they add up the sticker prices (esp at $99.99!). Good thing I also borrow from the library online. Can you do that in Nashville? Life saver!
    Kristine Laco recently posted…Cheers to FriendsMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Tell your family you’re practicing the Japanese art of Tsundoku, piling up books that you may never read. It sounds classy so I think you can get away with it. And, yes, the Nashville library allows us to borrow online, which is a great thing, or would be if I could get used to reading on a screen.

      Reply
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