Posted by author on 4/28/2019 3:09:00 PM
Alien Affairs by Scott Skipper is a very well-executed first contact science fiction novel. The book gives the author's take on how the alleged UFO crash near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 might have transpired. As the story progresses, it covers the subsequent ramifications decades in the future.
I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the events and character actions seemed plausible. Even though the tone of the drama is light-hearted, the author still took the time to think through the logistics of how first contact with a more advanced species might truly unfold. In fiction, the underdog triumphs over a superior force all the time because it's satisfying. Such a feel-good result emboldens us to believe that we can each transcend whatever stands in our way. But in real life, Goliath slays David the vast majority of the time. With that in mind, the struggles and failures of humankind's efforts against the aliens in the story rang true, and the bittersweet ending concluded the tale appropriately.
The characters, while seemingly dry at first, eventually show a great deal of personality through their dialogue and actions. This, as opposed to descriptions given in prose, is a sign of effective writing. Along those lines, the story unfolds very fluidly. It was an easy read. I tore through the novel in a pair of four-hour flights. However, in the last quarter of the novel, the author increased the level of detail and made his prose a bit meatier. This is in contrast to the first three-quarters of the story where the exposition was more bare-bones.
In regard to the light-hearted tone, the author took a while to establish it. At first, the novel struck me as a serious drama. But after few chapters of more casual dialogue and humor placed in serious situations, I began to realize that the story isn't meant to be taken too seriously. My figurative jury is still out on whether the easygoing tone improves or lessens the experience, but it does establish one thing for certain. The author is in no way trying to convince us that this was what really happened.
On the negative side of tone, the humor was occasionally a bit low-brow and distracting. The author makes much too big of a deal about how badly the aliens smell to humans and vice versa. It makes sense that beings from different environments with different biochemistry might reek to one another. However, there are multiple ways to resolve this issue that aren't addressed. And thinking about smell and contamination while keeping clean rooms, the CDC, and War of the Worlds in mind, one might think that both sides would want to do everything possible to minimize physical contact between species.
All in all, after much deliberation between four or five stars, I decided to give the book the full treatment with five. While by no means perfect (what work of fiction is?), Alien Affairs held my attention and impressed me in ways that no other novel has done in some time. It also helps that this novel falls within my primary genre of interest. Seeing an author breathe fresh life into one of the most overdone incidents in science fiction is, well, a breath of fresh air. I will definitely be checking out the subsequent books in the series (5/5 stars).
As a side note, I recommend upgrading the cover of book one. The exterior is not representative of the high quality of the content. A quick glance at Amazon reveals that the covers for subsequent books in the series become progressively more eye-catching. I would revisit book one's cover since it's the first cover that potential readers see. If the initial cover doesn't sell them, they may never see the rest. Of course, we all know that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But let's face it. Everyone does.