There were a lot of expectations I had heaped on this book, mainly because my favourite sci-fi of all time (even trumping Close Encounters) is Contact, with Jodie Foster. And I KNOW that is really unfair, but once lodged, it couldn’t be shifted, so I turned my gimlet gaze on this book thinking “this has better be good.”
Well, reader, I was not disappointed. It was a bold move to start with the alien POV, but it turns out they aren’t all that different from us, with similar thoughts and emotions, and cute pets to cuddle when they are feeling down. But don’t let that put you off. Their rituals, expectations, way of talking and manners are very alien, as are their names and clothing. The author has taken a lot of trouble to build their world from the tiniest details (drinking tuma, and the name for the pet as a youngster) to the major issues. There IS a glossary at the back, and usually I wish the author had drawn attention to it earlier, but actually, I didn’t need it. The writing makes it clear enough, without long drawn-out explanations, but the Glossary is a good reference.
Then we have the humans, Todd and his husband Jerry, and their uber-camp friend, Dan. I found Dan a bit irritating at first but I really warmed to him when disaster strikes. Todd has a heads-up that alien craft are approaching the planet but he can’t tell anyone. Even his husband, Jerry, doesn’t believe him. The author captures how they deal with having to keep quiet, as well as their everyday existence as a gay couple, brilliantly.
So with the characters established, the author sets about telling the story from the human and the alien point of view. Humans are dealing with their own problems: rising bigotry and world unrest, environmental issues, overpopulation. And the Nentraee, who are homeless due to the destruction of their world and running out of resources, need somewhere to settle their remaining population. Naturally, the humans have something to say about that when the Nentraee make tentative contact with
To the Nentraee, humans are an odd race who don’t appreciate the beauty of the world they live in. And to the humans, the Nentraee are patronising, preachy and want to wipe them all out. There is mutual distrust as both sides slowly learn about each other, but after a terrible event, Todd is the one who ends up being the link between the two races, a role he feels unprepared for.
This was a very human story as well as an alien one. Todd and Jerry have to deal with homophobia on a daily basis. It even gets in the way of negotiations with the Nentraee, something the aliens find incomprehensible. The aliens also have complex and close family units and social delicacies. I hope we find out more about how they became such an itinerant race and what happened to their original planet.
There are also self-serving politicians, an indictment of American society at the moment and a study of how we would look to extraterrestrial visitors. It isn’t any surprise they view us with some suspicion.
So a great start to the New World Series, with solid character development, appealing characters on both the human and Nentraee sides, and the potential for things to get really messy in the future. I’m looking forward to the next one!
A little blue world, the third planet from the sun. It’s home to 7 billion people with all manner of faiths, beliefs and customs, divided by bigotry and misunderstanding, who will soon be told they are not alone in the universe. Anyone watching from the outside would pass by this fractured and tumultuous world, unless they had no other choice. Todd Landon is one of these people, living and working in a section of the world called the United States of America. His life is similar to those around him: home, family, work, friends and a husband.
On the cusp of the greatest announcement humankind has ever witnessed, Todd’s personal world is thrown into turmoil when his estranged brother shows up on his front porch with news of ships heading for Earth’s orbit. The ships are holding the Nentraee, a humanoid race who have come to Earth in need of help after fleeing the destruction of their homeworld. How will one man bridge the gap for both the Humans and Nentraee, amongst mistrust, terrorist attacks and personal loss? Will this be the start of a new age of man or will bigotry and miscommunication bring this small world to its knees and final end?