Book Review: The Spaceship Next Door by Gene Doucette

2017Jun3

My personal rating:  4 out of 5

My three sentence synopsis:  A spaceship lands outside of a small town in rural Massachusetts and for three years does nothing–or does it? Government specialist Edgar Somerville is convinced that the lack of change in Sorrow Falls indicates the spaceship is having an effect on the town beyond making it a hot spot for UFO enthusiasts. Although he initially rebuffs 16 year-old Annie Collins’ offer to act as his translator (“If you want to get good answers instead of the usual answers, you need someone to call bullcrap on them when they say it,” Annie asserts), Ed discovers Annie is the key to finding out why the spaceship is here.

The first morsel of prose:  The spaceship landed on a cool night in August, in a field that wasn’t being used for anything in particular. Like most remarkable things, nobody realized it was remarkable as it happened. The ship lit up the sky above Sorrow Falls when entering the atmosphere, but that was only slightly unusual in the way that a meteor could be slightly unusual.

Later, eyewitness accounts would describe the evening as becoming “as bright as daytime” in that moment, but this was a profound exaggeration. The truth was, while the object flashed brightly, an observer had to already be looking skyward to see it. If one were instead looking at the road, or the television, or the ceiling, the craft would have gone unnoticed as it traveled toward that field on the edge of town.

The reason I chose this book:  One evening I can home from work tired and wanted to get lost in a story that didn’t demand a high level of concentration or critical thought. This sci-fi novel fit the bill.

My experience with this book:  This book was so much fun for me! It’s written in third person and a lot of the humor comes through the commentary in the narration. This isn’t science fiction that uses human interaction with aliens to explore important philosophical themes (although that is a pleasure in it’s own right); this is science fiction that uses human interaction with aliens to have an adventure and I thoroughly enjoyed the exploits of the humans and aliens in Sorrow Falls.

Having said that, I must clarify that if your idea of a sci-fi adventure is non-stop action or suspense that compels you to read until 2:00 a.m., then this story may be too pedestrian for your taste. The story takes place three years after the spaceship lands and you spend the first part of the novel getting a feel for the new normal that has developed in Sorrow Falls as the characters go about their daily lives. Given that I found the novel’s narrative voice amusing, I was quite entertained during this section, despite the lack of action.

It also helped that the novel centers around Annie Collins, the character who charmed me completely. The rest of the characters ranged from cliched, to adequate, to above average. The only one I thought was a little too on-the-nose was Una, but that opinion may be unduly influenced by the audiobook narrator.

I listened to this novel through Audible, and the narrator, Steve Carlson, delivered the dry humor of the novel’s narration pitch perfect, but I found his performance of the dialog merely adequate. Even with that criticism, I have no regrets about purchasing this audiobook, and I anticipate listening to it again.

The story went places that I didn’t expect, but the developments didn’t seem out of place. My only quibble with the plot (in hindsight) regards Annie’s escape from the Washington bureaucrats. I guess I’m getting cynical, but I think in real life she would have died in an assassination made to look like an accident. But that wouldn’t have fit the tone of this story at all, so it’s not a big problem for me. Besides, I really liked Annie and wanted to see her succeed in the end, which she did in admirable fashion.

What this book is about:  Expectations; how extraordinary things can become normal and how ordinary things can be amazing; and the power of ideas.

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About ChainThree

I am a daughter, sister, wife and aunt who has always loved a good yarn.
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