Todd’s relationship with his family is … difficult. His parents have recently begun to tolerate the idea of his marriage to his husband, Jerry, but Todd has cut all contact with his brother, Brad, who hates the idea of Todd being gay. Even though his brother has sent an email, Todd isn’t interested in hearing what Brad has to say. Not today, at least. Maybe not tomorrow, either, but that all changes when there’s a knock on the front door. Who should be on the other side, but Brad himself, looking like hell.
After the initial shock wears off, Todd can’t help but wonder what brought his brother to San Jose, to the house he shares with Jerry. Brad quickly assures him that he’s fine, his wife and kids are fine; he’s come to warn Todd (and Jerry) to get ready. To run to Costco and buy as much as they can of the staples: water, canned goods, and emergency supplies, because the aliens are coming!
Speaker General Mirtoff is the highest ranking Nentraee. In her hands are the 450 ships carrying all that remains of her people. Their home is gone, their ships are old, and resources and hope are fading. They need a new home and soon, one with a species close to their own level of technology who can give them the help they need. There have been some worlds that might have worked, but the beings who lived there would have been dependants, not allies, and so the Nentraee keep looking. It isn’t until they reach Earth that Mirtoff allows herself to feel hope. While the humans are crude and violent, they have reached space on their own. They make war with one another, but they also cry for peace. They have art and music and — most of all — this planet and its human people might be the last chance the Nentraee have of finding a home before more ships fail and more people die.
While Contact is categorized by the publisher as a romance, it reads more as a science fiction novel with a gay main character. However, this is only the first book in the series, so it’s possible there might be more of an emphasis on romance in later installations. However, I can only review this book on what’s actually inside.
Todd is an idealist. Even though his brother hurt him, he still wants resolution and he misses his brother. Todd works at creating adventure games, making worlds where he can dictate the rules and make certain the good guys win and the bad guys get punished. He’s a dreamer and relies on his husband to bring him back to earth after he’s spent enough time with his head in the clouds. Where Todd is a bit flighty, Jerry is practical and down to earth. He’d like to push Todd out of his comfort zone; he wouldn’t depend on him in an emergency.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to see much of Todd and Jerry as a couple, and there’s barely any time to get to know Jerry at all. A crisis acts as a catalyst for Todd’s journey, taking him from being someone who dreams of great things happening to a man who is capable of making things happen. The catalyst is not a trope I’m fond of, however, the situation does lead to actual consequences. We see Todd’s grief, the anger and rage and hurt he feels, the way he lashes out at those around him, and even the blame he feels. It’s well written, and I can’t really judge it in its entirety until we see where the next book takes Todd.
This story is mostly about what would really, honestly happen if aliens came to earth. Would they be met with weapons and distrust? Would there be press conferences? Would people worship them like deities or fear them like devils? The author put honest thought into it, and not just how the United States might behave; the story truly examines how this would affect the global community and I think it was very well put together and very nicely laid out.
The aliens, on the other hand, are a tad less successful, for me. As with so many science fiction books, the aliens are all too human, save for a few small, cosmetic differences. Here it’s the pointed ears and a slightly Star Treckian shaping and coloring of the forehead and nose. Their manners are very studied, in part because they’re trying not to frighten the humans they’ve descended upon, but personally I would have liked to have seen them be just a little more alien, a little more other. However, this is only the first book.
The plot is fairly standard for a first contact novel, and the pacing is good and tight. The reasons behind why the aliens do what they do are well explained and make perfect sense. While the writing is good, I found it hard to connect with the characters, alien or human. Todd, as a protagonist, is a rather bland ‘every man’ and it wasn’t until the last third of the book that he showed any emotion or personality at all. There are some editing errors, here and there. Nothing too terrible, but they were there.
This book is mostly set-up for the book that comes after it, which makes it hard to judge as a separate thing. As it stands, though, it’s a promising entry and while I do look forward to book two, it just doesn’t bring anything new to the table either in ideas or characters.