Xenophobia by Peter Cawdron

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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When an alien spacecraft unexpectedly arrives in orbit the UN peacekeeping force is pulled out of Malawi allowing it to collapse into the civil war the UN has just about been managing to keep the lid on. Are the aliens friends or foes? And with no common language to allow meaningful communication do the UN or any of the world’s governments dare gamble on them being friendly especially when much of the human population are terrified of them and attacking any of their draft on sight.

Peter Cawdron clearly has a fascination with first contact scenarios but both this book and his previous first contact book I’ve read – Anomaly – leave me struggling with the way he has events play out. Decisions and actions close to the main protagonists I mostly found plausible but further afield I just don’t feel Cawdron has taken the time to make them realistic. It felt like he needed certain things to happen so they just happened; he needed panic so there was panic, he needed people to attack the aliens so they attacked them. And whilst he seemed to pay lip service to realism, having at least some of the characters condemning these actions and pointing out their stupidity and ineffectiveness he didn’t, for me at least, provide sufficient motivation for these actions to be believable.

He also fell with remarkable ease into the much overused trope of essentially benign aliens, horrified by the destructive forces of humankind’s stewardship of Earth, preparing to forcibly correct our behaviour and, of course, one human managing to convince them of our essential good nature. By the end of the book I was really beginning to feel the need for a bucket. This is a shame as Cawdron is not a bad writer but I don’t think he’s quite good enough, yet at least, to take on quite such ambitious subjects without them feeling forced and polemic.

3/5 stars
 
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