Note: Review copy supplied by author
Author: M.D. Neu
Publisher: NineStar Press
Length: 71,800 words
A little blue world, the third planet from the sun. It’s home to seven 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?
This one has taken a while to get to. I mean, the book has been in my reading pile long enough that the sequel is already out. Boy am I glad that I did finally read it though. Contact is driven by its characters and their interactions with the general setting, and they’re an instantly lovable bunch to boot.
Our main protagonist is Todd, and we get a wonderful insight into his life from the start. Even with the announcement that aliens have made contact, everything we see with Todd and his husband Jerry feels like it would fit in a contemporary piece. They come across as a very real couple, and that makes it all the easier to relate to them. Todd’s reactions to the various events that transpire around him are also very authentic. His friends Dan and Kati are also wonderful additions to the cast, and the chemistry between the group is a joy to read. In particular, Kati’s foul-mouthed tirades manage to make her oddly likable. Meanwhile, the unnamed humans’ reactions fit well with what you’d perhaps expect from first contact. From the instigation of a precautionary military rule to the more bigoted outcry, the fear on all sides is a nice touch that fits with how we, as a species, have been known to act at times. Throw in some truly sad moments, and you have a real tragic tone to wrap yourself in at times too.
The aliens themselves are humanoid in appearance, but with some differences. The description of them makes them sound physically like the sort of species you’d find in Star Trek. That fits well with the overall tone of the book, as it was Trek that sprung to mind for me several times throughout. What makes them so intriguing to read about though is the way they approach contact with us. They have a balanced approach at the core, seeing both our weaknesses and the things that a mutual agreement could offer them. In a way, their political set up is actually very similar to ours, and the traits they see in both our species and their own past gives an instant link that brings both hope and concern. Seeing Mirtoff trying to figure her way around the best way to interact with humans is absolutely fascinating too, and helps bolster the already strong world building. Oh, and Faa is absolutely lovely.
The pacing throughout the story is great, never dropping into being too slow, but never speeding up more than it needs to. We also get some seeds sown for later books, such as the secretary’s comments about faith perhaps hinting at her being involved with one of the tragic events of the book.
In all, this was a fantastic read and one that brought me back to enjoying sci-fi shows in my teens. It’s an excellent book that deserves to be your shelf. 5 out of 5.