Book Review: Illegal Alien – by Robert J. Sawyer

An alien spaceship lands in the Atlantic in 1997. The O.J. Simpson trial is just over, the Internet has started its meteoric rise, but the first bubble has not yet burst. An American aircraft carrier and a Russian submarine meet the spaceship. An alien exits. The human contingent consists of the science advisor to the president of the United States, a TV science and astronomy personality and one of the Russians. The alien is not humanoid. The human race has “first contact” and they escort the alien to New York to the United Nations.

The aliens are technologically highly advanced and traveled 211 years from their home world orbiting Alpha Centauri, four light years away, presumably to come in friendship. Their mothership was damaged in the Kuiper Belt by an unexpected collision and they need human help for repairs. A great opportunity for companies like Rockwell and Hughes, who get contracts for the repairs while they can then keep the technology they pick up from the aliens as they go.

After a world tour the aliens settle in Los Angeles at UCLA. All goes well, until one of the human scientists is murdered and one of the aliens is implicated and arrested.

I started reading this book in 1997, when it first came out, and abandoned it in the middle. The middle of the book is a courtroom drama, like Grisham’s work, just with aliens sprinkled in. It got a little slow for me and I remember simply losing interest. This time I started again from the beginning and pulled through and finished. I was glad for it.

Illegal Alien is a good, plausible first contact story in today’s world. What happened, with the exceptions of the murder, is what I could envision would happen if aliens landed and asked: “Take me to your leader.” The alien physiology appears realistic, and due to the plot intricacies, we learn about their external and internal structures.

I found myself trying to figure out how the plot would unravel, and I have to admit that the end is completely unpredictable. So when I got to the last third of the book, and things started coming together, I simply could not put it down. I didn’t get to bed until midnight, having done nothing else but finish reading Illegal Alien.

Rating: ***

One thought on “Book Review: Illegal Alien – by Robert J. Sawyer

  1. John

    “The creature was not humanoid.” Robert Sawyer lost me right there. Yes, I did read the description of the aliens, and Sawyer seems to think that giving the aliens extra limbs, and tendrils on top of the head qualifies as ‘not humanoid.’ I’ve read a few of Sawyer’s books and find him a pedestrian writer. How he won all those awards puzzles me. If he had left out that phrase I quoted above it would have been much better. It’s like he’s pounding the reader with it. Now see here, I’ll describe the alien but I’m going to make sure you understand that it’s not humanoid. Wham bam pow!!!

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