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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Reading List: Little Green Men

Cawdron, Peter. Little Green Men. Los Gatos, CA: Smashwords, 2013. ISBN 978-1-3017-6672-7.
The author is rapidly emerging as the contemporary grandmaster of the first contact novel. Unlike his earlier Anomaly (December 2011) and Xenophobia (August 2013), this novel is set not in near-future Earth but rather three centuries from now, when an exploration team has landed on a cryogenic planet 23 light years from the solar system in search of volatiles to refuel their ship in orbit. Science officer Michaels believes he's discovered the first instance of extraterrestrial life, after centuries of searching hundreds of star systems and thousands of planets in vain. While extremophile microbes are a humble form of life, discovering that life originated independently on another world would forever change humanity's view of its place in the universe.

Michaels and his assistant collect a sample to analyse back at the ship and are returning to their scout craft when, without warning, they are attacked, with the assistant gravely wounded. The apparent attackers are just fast-moving shadows, scattering when Michaels lights a flare. Upon getting back to the ship with the assistant barely clinging to life, Michaels has a disturbing conversation with the ship's doctor which causes him to suspect that there have been other mysterious incidents.

Another scouting party reports discovering a derelict freighter which appears nowhere in the registry of ships lost in the region, and when exploring it, are confronted with hostile opposition in about the least probable form you might imagine finding on a planet at 88° K. I suppose it isn't a spoiler if I refer you to the title of the book.

The crew are forced to confront what is simultaneously a dire threat to their lives, a profound scientific discovery, and a deep mystery which just doesn't make any sense. First contact just wasn't supposed to be anything like this, and it's up to Michaels and the crew to save their skins and figure out what is going on. The answer will amaze you.

The author dedicates this book as a tribute to Philip K. Dick, and this is a story worthy of the master. In the acknowledgements, he cites Michael Crichton among those who have influenced his work. As with Crichton's novels, this is a story where the screenplay just writes itself. This would make a superb movie and, given the claustrophobic settings and small cast of characters, wouldn't require a huge budget to make.

This book is presently available only in electronic form for the Kindle as cited above.

Posted at September 1, 2013 14:56