YouTubers writing books is nothing new. I just haven’t read them, and/or never watched the channels they were connected to. This is different however. I have been following Lindsay Ellis for a long time. Since her days as the Nostalgia Chick for ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com, a now defunct website (there is a sequel website, Channel Awesome, but is a total husk of what it was) that featured a slew of content creators who did comedy-based reviews of media from the late 2000s-early 2010s.
In comparing the kind of content she releases now compared to then it’s easy to how her evolution. What I find most interesting, and this is something most mainstream readers might not know, but at one point she crowdsource a novel, a YA paranormal romance, that I never read, but this is different. That book was self published. This one has a full publisher behind it, and is kind of a let down.
To explain, the novel follows Cora, a directionless 20-something with a tumultuous family situation. Everything changes for her when an alien object screeches across the Los Angeles skyline and lands in the exact same spot another foreign space object did. From there debates about alien life and existence come into play when Cora’s family is approached by the CIA over the incident due to the above tumultuous family life. The debates harden into a reality when Cora finds an alien breaking into her house, and after a series of events she ends up working with the alien, Ampersand, to find his people before he is discovered by others of is race and killed for what he knows. To accomplish this Cora becomes Ampersand’s interpreter to the humans. From there the relationship between the aliens and humans come into conflict as the true menace hunts them down.
It’s hard to really pick out what just does not work about this book in the end. Most everything else in the book works fine enough. The writing is clear, descriptive-if a little too much sometimes. It’s paced well enough for a more ET-like first contact story than a War of the Worlds or Day the Earth Stood Still. Cora is also a fine enough protagonist. She doesn’t have the most defined arc, but she is certainly empathetic and easy to stay with throughout the narrative. Heck, even the alien society feels fairly well thought out. Not super clear how they advanced so quickly despite their strict hierarchical nature, but are an interesting group and uses the idea of language in really fun ways.
Then, if it’s all fine where is the problem? Well that’s kind of the point, the problem isn’t in the story, it’s what’s glossed over and mostly in the background. The unexplained tumultuous family life alluded to earlier is that Cora’s father, Nils, is an Edward Snowden-type leaker of truth. He leaks major information on his blog, along with writing post against the American government. This is shown through epistolary blog posts, news articles, and emails by tertiary characters. This does help flavor the world, but is also the most interesting stuff and it’s just left in the background.
One major example is how the President, George W Bush, steps down from office after the knowledge of alien existence comes to the public. It gets a few passing mentions in story and in the logs, but nothing really changes in the narrative like it should. I understand part of the point is how unimportant the president is when it comes to certain knowledge, however a big political shakeup should feel massive in the narrative, and it does not. A second example is used a hand-wave explanation on how characters get out of their captivity. The setup is in one of the epistolary entries and then comes back at the end to save the day without the characters involved having to do anything to get free. It just feels rushed and like the narrative was too tied up by staying with Cora as the POV character.
As annoy as the outside information being more interesting than the narrative is, the real issue is how weak the ending ultimately is. The book feels like it ends with no resolution to the main questions raised. Sure, the big bad of the novel is dead (who, too, was also far too in the background of the narrative to feel threatening until the last 50-100 pages or so, but works as a foil for our heroes), but the question about what Ampersand and Cora will do, and their relationship moving forward is left far too ambiguous for any definitive reading. It makes all the questions of co-relations and teamwork with extraterrestrial life the book brought up feel pointless by being too centrist about the topic by the end of the day.
Centrist feels like an apt word for the book. Not that it preaches centrist ideology, but just how middle of the road the whole affair ends up being. It has some good ideas about what intelligent alien life could be like, and what conversations could be like with them as it pertains to learning their language and vice-versa, but none of the characters stand out, the third act feels very generic, the epistolary entires feel more like flavor text than important to the narrative until it’s swung too far in that direction, and the ending does not answer the what if statement of first contact with aliens.
I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!
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