4 out of 4 stars
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When aliens initiate first contact, Doctor Elisabeth Bower is stuck in Malawi, trying to protect her staff and patients from the rebel militia. Abandoned by the US military, her hope comes in the form of Sergeant Jameson and his eccentric rangers. With the rebel militia on one side, the mothership floating above, and the rangers behind her, Dr. Liz sets out in search of safety.
Xenophobia plays out two major storylines. We have the civil war in Malawi and First Contact with the rest of the world. Stuck with only a failing radio, the snippets of what is happening in the rest of the world heightens the suspense to such a degree that I read this book in one go. The action builds up slowly, but it fits perfectly with the story.
What I loved most about this book was the underlying message. I love a good book, but a book that tells a great story while dealing with real-world issues – that is a book that changes your life. Xenophobia achieves that. The underlying message and commentary throughout the book on our judgement of people that are different, and what it means to understand diverse cultures and species, all hit very close to home.
The writer also uses two opposites to advance the story forward. We have the healer, Liz, and the military man, Elvis. Both have opposing views on the sanctity of life and how to deal with first contact. While Liz wants to initiate contact, Elvis wants to go on the offense and strike. And yet, these two characters function as accurate representations on the two primary types of people in the world if first contact was to happen. I loved that the author did it this way and that their reactions are very human. There are tears and anger and hatred – from all sides, connecting everyone as one whole.
This was my first hard science fiction read (hard science fiction is based on scientific accuracy) and I enjoyed it immensely. The descriptions were beautiful, and the author also adds a few illustrations of the mothership, floaters, and Stella. The author also based the alien biology on the human neurosphere.
Xenophobia is written in the present tense, which was slightly awkward at first but straightens out and lends to the suspense of the read. There were only two missed commas with the rest of the book filled with impeccable writing and awesome descriptions, especially on battle scenes between the rangers and the militia. The battles are brutal, no one is safe and the mental effects of seeing someone killed in front of you is not ignored. The only thing that I didn’t like was the banter. There were a couple of times that it felt forced and pretentious. There are also a few scenes of graphic violence and some swearing.
I rate Xenophobia 4 out of 4 stars. I would recommend this book to those looking for an unpredictable, hard sci-fi read full of suspense and commentary on xenophobia, as well as humanity’s fear of that which we don’t understand. The author did a great job of depicting characters that any reader will love and relate to. Humanity needs to understand each other before we can ever dream of understanding those in our ever-expanding universe.
******If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences between our kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.
- Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek. (also quoted in Xenophobia)
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