From creepy to hilarious to murkily outlandish: a freewheeling science-fiction nightmare/comedy from the inventive author of The Green Futures of Tycho (as well as several non-sf winners). Barney, 16, is summering with his folks in a rented house on the New England coast--a house that once belonged to a tormented, insane 19th-century sea-captain. And staying in the cottage nearby are three glamorous, vaguely European jet-set types: Zena, Manny, and Joe--an attractive but apparently non-sexual menage a trois. Why does this trio take such an intense interest in the house where Barney is staying? (They blatantly traipse in and search the place.) Why do they have in their possession the unpublished memoirs of that crazy sea-captain--who went mad after a visitation from some mysterious, unearthly sailor? Why do Barney's parents see the strangers as idealistic (Dad) and socially important (Mom)--when they're really neither? Those are a few of the questions on Barney's mind as he too finds himself being entranced by Zena, Manny, and Joe: they invite him over for an evening of "Interstellar Pig," a space-fantasy board game that's hysterically complicated and fiendishly "extreme." (Zena explains--"If you happen to be a water-breathing gill man from Thrilb, you can't set foot on Vavoosh without special breathing equipment, or you'll drown in boiling ammonia--not a pretty way to go. Or let's suggest you're an arachnoid nyph from Vavoosh, and you end on Mbridlengile, God forbid. . . .") Soon, however, Barney realizes that the trio is after some hidden treasure, buried by that captain on a nearby islet; he beats them to it, digging up "The Piggy," a trinket with unspecified cosmic powers; he now realizes that Zena et al. are aliens, that the board game is a miniature replica of actual space-life, that the sailor who drove the captain mad was a time-traveling alien. Eventually, then, the game turns very nasty indeed--as the glamorous three reveal their gross alien-monster selves, desperate to get The Piggy from Barney. And the closing pages offer a sort of astral battle: Barney turns into a lichen, learns that The Piggy has nuclear hiccups, tries to save the world from a 100 megaton explosion. . . and ultimately figures out the tricky true identity of The Piggy. Notwithstanding the crunch of confusing sf-puzzle cliches in this semi-tongue-in-cheek finale: steady, challenging amusement for savvy readers.