3 out of 4 stars
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Arrival, by Alex Slade, entangles readers in a web of intrigue and mystery as unexplained disappearances rock a small community. Men, women, young, old, students, teachers, and people from all walks of life are disappearing without a trace. In a rush to find answers, Detectives Jake Westbrook and Tom Vega begin the search for clues allowing readers to "ride along" for analysis of the crime scenes and interviews with the hysterical friends and families of the missing. From a dressmaker to a six-year-old little boy, the disappearances do not seem to be related. Detectives Westbrook and Vega struggle to find connections between the abductions. Who could be responsible for these disappearances? Will they be able to discover who is taking the citizens of their community before it is too late?
As the investigation progresses, the detectives stumble upon an unexpected connection among the missing; they were all sick exactly two weeks prior to their disappearances. Can this be the clue that cracks the case wide open? Are others in danger? Both Jake and Tom have themselves been sick. Are they next? The detectives begin to suspect something larger than simple abduction is a work and, oh boy, are they correct! I would love to explain, but to do so would be to spoil the surprise. This break in the case came after one of the abducted, Frank Delane, reappears incoherent and in shock. Swarmed by men in hazmat suits and surrounded by government agents, Frank is escorted to the hospital and questioned, but Frank cannot explain what exactly has happened to him.
In the story, Slade utilizes a literary device known as a multiple narrative, wherein he presents the story from the perspectives of several protagonists who interact and whose fates are intertwined. In addition to Westbrook and Vega, readers are introduced to Gwen Joyner, an English teacher working at the school from which a teacher has disappeared, and her student, Elena. Elena is an awkward and bullied teen who escapes her reality in lucid dreams. Brothers, Frank and Sean Delane, are planning a theft from a local museum to finance medical care for Frank’s critically ill daughter, Clare. Jennifer Marsh, an Air Force fighter pilot, whose brother Matt has disappeared, provides another of the story lines.
The multiple narrative approach, while interesting, proved too busy for me and was what I liked least about the story. The story lines themselves did intersect and the fates of these protagonists were intertwined, but as a reader who enjoys following a protagonist through the conflict and ultimate resolution of said conflict, I found the multiple story lines distracting. Each protagonist - Jake, Tom, Gwen, Elena, Frank, and Jennifer – had their own personal struggles and were thrust into alien situations that made them question their sanity, their place in the universe, and ultimately, their ability to survive. What I liked most about the book was the riddle and problem-solving utilized to try and discover the cause of the disappearances. Not only is Arrival a mystery, but also it is science fiction at its best. Readers will have to dig into the story themselves to find out why because any explanation on my part would be too big of a spoiler. I also loved the description of Elena’s journeys into lucid dreaming; she was able to recognize a dream as a dream enabling her to control the dream.
Overall, I rate Arrival by Alex Slade, 3 out of 4 stars. The story has thrills, action, interesting and sometimes alien landscapes, and interesting characters. However, with so many characters to follow the story becomes convoluted at times. Also, conflict resolution for the many characters never happens since this book is the first installment of a series. I, personally, like some resolution. I would recommend this story to other readers who enjoy mystery combined with science fiction. It is appropriate for young adult or adult readers.
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