(Doug Johnson – Orenda Books)
An alien washes up on a Scottish beach and is recovered by a small group of humans, linked by a curious burst of unexpected strokes. Needless to say, sinister authorities get involved, and soon the alien, a telepathic five-tentacled cephalopod dubbed Sandy, is being kept safe in a dash across scenic Scotland. Who wouldn’t want a book which adds an alien to Loch Ness?
For a story like this to work for me, the humans need to be empathically drawn, the alien the right blend of vulnerable and mysterious, the thrills and reveals well-paced, and the setting more than background scenery. Johnson, an experienced writer, succeeds on all fronts, including delivering his first science fiction book.
The story is grounded in four engaging humans. Lennox is a troubled older teen from a children’s home; Ava, a heavily pregnant woman fleeing a coercive husband; Heather, a middle-aged mother contemplating suicide; and Ewan, a washed-up journalist tracking a story which draws him from reporter to participant.
Sandy is enigmatic and in some curious sense, plural. They are often recovering and powerless, but as the book progresses, who they are, where they came from, and what it all means becomes clearer. All my reviews are spoiler free, but the climax gave me the wonder and hope implicit in the premise. Those involved have been transformed in large ways and small.
The title I read is about the space between human beings and how we reach across it when thrown together by accident or a common purpose, but also, the distance between us and other thinking beings. That space is bridged in a spectacular fashion.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an impartial review.