30 Books in 30 Days, Vol. 2
I don’t even really know what I want to say about this one! It wasn’t what I was expecting, even though I didn’t think I was going in expecting anything. Figure that one out. All I knew was that it was a First Contact story, and I liked the cover. I think I also might have known it took place in 2007.
Our main character is twenty-one year old Cora*, whose father is basically an answer to the question, ‘What if Edward Snowden were a deadbeat dad?’ He’s made himself the most infamous man in the world by running a website called The Broken Seal, where he practices ‘radical transparency’ in the name of Truth (“Truth is a human right.”). Taking advantage of a meteor hitting in California not far from Cora’s house, he has released a memo that implies the US government has been concealing the existence of extraterrestrial life for over forty years. Cora and her family are pulled in to it because even though her father has been an ex-patriot for four years now, she and her two siblings and her mother are bargaining tools the government thinks it can use to rein in her father. They are wrong, and then come the aliens.
*Who according to the author was named for Kore, aka Persephone, but I am not savvy enough to connect the dots on that one, although the author’s labyrinthine alien naming joke got me: Ampersand is a symbol for the Latin word ‘et’ . . . aka E.T.
Some plot spoilers below, skip to the last paragraph if you want zero spoilers.
But Cora’s father, his absence a huge influence in her life, is not the main story here. The main story here is Cora and her relationship with an alien she calls ‘Ampersand’, after ‘The Ampersand Event’, the codename the CIA gives to the crash that brought him to Earth. After a series of wacky and somewhat terrifying events, Cora becomes the intermediary between humans and Ampersand’s species, the only human who has successfully conversed with an alien in the forty years since they appeared on Earth. She is soon the foremost expert on aliens on the planet, and while some things she learns are very cool, many are frightening and provoke existential thoughts. The book is also very fast-paced, and a surprising amount of plot was smooshed into 374 pages.
I am definitely in for reading the sequels, not sure how many there will be. This was a surprisingly nuanced, complex sci-fi adventure story that’s also about friendship, and other bigger themes I don’t want to get into. Very glad I read it.