2 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
A futuristic utopian novel, A Message from The Neighbours is the first book of the titular trilogy by Vincent J. Hyde.
Nearly half a century into the future, Earth has reached its ideal. With all of the planet fully explored and united, the only problem faced is the exhaustion of all its resources. When an intelligence signal is finally detected from the unknown vastness of space, it promises another revolution to rocket science to near indefinite levels, as well as the danger that comes with the unfamiliar. Leaders of the planet convene to design a strategy, sending two astronauts to investigate the alien object. With new information gathered about extraterrestrial lifeforms, Earth’s place and standing in the universe becomes an even greater mystery and the actions taken subsequently may have an even greater impact on the world than one could imagine.
I appreciated the introduction and prologue. They armed me with the basic knowledge of history and terms to foray into this new fantasy world I knew I’d be absolutely clueless about. The terms mostly speak for themselves and are capitalized (re: ‘The Neighbours’ in the title) to aid understanding and plot processing. I’d advise readers to actually read these (I know some of us don’t, generally) as they provide a lot of background data and puts the story into perspective.
The concepts presented in the story were products of interesting vision. There were theories conceived and discussed that forced me to analyze and review, something that not every book can do. This world still maintained quite a few similarities with ours. The seemingly eternal war between religion and science as it relates to whose argument trumps whose is basically the same, though it appears a deeper correlation between the two is visible. Even with all the advancements of that civilization, it remains an issue deciding human lives as statistics – the sacrifice of little for the safety and longevity of the many or vice versa. I stuck through the story mostly due to these segments and the debating topics of the plot.
I have so many questions. Probably the most prominent one is centered around the fact that English is the universal language spoken in this perfect slice of heaven. Looking at the benefits, I can understand why this may seem like a desirable objective. It’s obvious that this erases language barriers, thus facilitating communication, trade, sets a global standard and so on, but what about the unavoidable drawbacks? Won’t other languages eventually cease to exist (note that these are never mentioned or referred to in the story) and cause, even further, an eradication of culture, history and diversity? Why English? This seems so presumptuous and reflective of the same callousness that led to colonization, enslavement and genocide.
The tone of A Message from The Neighbours is so technical it read more as an academic article than a fictional novel. Honestly, the story took the form of a high school chemistry-physics-biology tribrid lesson that made the nerd in me victory dance and sloth-me cry phantom tears of misery-induced trauma. It even had bullet points, diagrams, subheading and tables. It dealt with a ton of scenarios that spoke of how receptive humans are, or not, to change and novelty. This made the very short, four-chapter book seem taxing to complete.
The lack of any real conflict really bugged me. There was no adventurous or adrenaline-spiked element - not a single spark to rev my obstacle-thriving engines as one would expect from a novel written in the science fiction genre. There was no opportunity for suspense as everything is fed by the bowl in one huge swallow. Hyde did not hold back. There was a deluge of information that was not helped by the repetition of information and limited by the shortness of the novel (three hours of reading length on average) so everything was jampacked in one go.
All the characters in A Message from The Neighbours collectively had the personality of raw tofu. The most obvious markers were the stereotypes and clichés for each person: the agnostic, Tom Strange, was a bitter cynic; Dr. Lamb and Dr. Pawn with the self-explanatory names were the sacrificial astronauts; and the women blush and get nervous when given attention. I’m noticing a trend with science fiction novels where the AIs seem to have more of a personality than the actual people themselves, as in the case of Interface, the token robot.
Hyde’s story was void of any voice. This took out most of the entertainment factor generally present in fiction books. The novel seemed moderately well-written as I found only simple, rare errors. I do not believe the novel was professionally edited.
I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. I do not recommend this book to readers who enjoy a thrilling, action-packed novel with vibrant characters and an engaging storyline. I believe those who enjoy theories and debates would prefer this novel and it is suitable for audiences of all ages.
A Message from the Neighbours
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon