02 July 2013
Damocles by S.G. Redling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've noted before that I'm a sucker for a good first contact story, and while my preferred first contact is aliens coming to Earth, there have been some solid books about Earth going to different places for the first time (perhaps best exemplified by The Sparrow), and Damocles is a surprisingly great entry in this subgenre.
The plot is very simple, which is why it works. Meg is a linguist on an exploratory crew from earth. They land on a planet that is part of a multiple-star system, and quickly make contact with the beings on the planet. The book jumps back and forth in point of view between the beings on the planet and of the Earthers.
The book works well because it's a very realistic portrayal of future technology aiding (and often impeding) communication between alien races. Much of the book is the two sides trying to communicate, which is ultimately more riveting than you might expect. We get some misunderstandings, some humorous moments, it's actually really more fun than it has some business doing.
The one downside is the last bit of the book, where we get to meet some other Earthen voyagers. The people sent on this trip along with Meg and her crew are genuinely terrible, and it simply doesn't make any sense that they would have been vetted through the process of sending them off. There's a place for the semi-charming, semi-rude Jayne-from-Firefly-type when it comes down to people on the fringes of interplanetary society, but not necessarily in this context. It really brought the narrative down for me.
Regardless of that hiccup at the end, this was a great read, and I'm glad I grabbed it. A fun, light sci-fi read that's probably going to surprise you a bit.
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