Title: Alien Invasion & Other Inconveniences
Author: Brian Yansky
Series: Alien Invasion #1
No one is prepared for the day alien invaders arrive, which is probably partially why they manage to take over in ten seconds. Jesse is one of the few—lucky? unlucky?—enough to be spared to work as a slave for the conquerors. But as the aliens work on getting Earth ready to be colonized, Jesse and a few other survivors are determined to take their lives back.
I saw the title and read the blurbs and thought this would be a pretty funny read. I finished the book really annoyed and feeling like this is half the book it should have been and none of it was funny at all.
The first and most obvious problem is the way the story assumes you just get what it’s trying to say so it doesn’t need to say it. Like descriptions. Take Michael. Michael shows up on page and is introduced as a football player. No physical characteristics noted. He then has a huge rant/conversation with Jesse about how it’s different for Jesse, and how Michael always felt like what he had would be taken away, etc, etc. This makes absolutely no sense in context, unless by “football player” I am supposed to automatically assume something about Michael’s race (the story later does confirm he is black, but in a really awkward line where Michael is describing what could probably be construed as a sex scene. Or possibly just a make out session. It was really hard to tell). This isn’t a long book, but it should’ve been twice as long if it just bothered to describe things instead of jumping from dialogue to plot and back again.
Or take Jesse. In a stellar example of what it says/what it looks like mismatch, he casually drops the revelation a few pages in that he’s a black belt in tae kwan do, a wrestling pro, and has learned various other things from his dad, who was in the Special Forces. But his actions and his voice rarely line up to that. He doesn’t think like someone trained to attack and defend himself, he isn’t all that disciplined (am I supposed to believe his self-proclaimed “I aim to be neither a leader nor a follower” middle-of-the-road mentality got him a black belt?), and he shows zero interest in actually practicing to maintain his supposed combat prowess, even after deciding to escape. So basically it’s just a magic trick to let him throw out a few punches and kicks when a fight crops up to sound cool.
There were also bits that made no sense to be in the story except to check something off a list. The encounter with the gay painter, for example. This does nothing for the story or the characters. Why is it here? Oh, so we can have a really long description of someone with an oppressive father who came out of the closet. This character then vanishes and contributes nothing at all to the plot. Even the building they’re working on painting isn’t important.
And for a story that seems to be at least somewhat about stereotyping it’s almost hilarious how many of them are in the plot itself. As mentioned above, Michael the football player being automatically black is one. Lauren is supposed to be major awesome because she’s volunteered for everything and wants to save the environment and complains about various historical figures. She doesn’t come across as a CHARACTER. Lindsey, similarly, has her own what-I-did-and-who-I-know (and by the way, the description only goes as deep as “looks like Paris Hilton”. Thanks. And how well is that going to describe this girl to the age range?) Both girls have a really exhausting list of “here’s what I did” as though listing what you’ve done could be a substitute for actually, I don’t know, doing something in the present that would showcase who you are. It’s like we’re supposed to take this list of accomplishments as a substitute for scenes that could help flesh them out.
Then there are the aliens. What a huge disappointment. They’ve got funny-shaped eyes and their skin’s a different color. Sound familiar? Oh, and the whole plot revolves around colonization and greed. The letters the First Citizen writes back to his society are meant to evoke a sort of pathos, I think, but it just underscores how these aliens somehow think exactly like humans. Being able to join minds hasn’t shaped them at all. There’s nothing alien about these aliens except their telepathy.
I’m also bothered by the age range for this book. It’s written like it’s supposed to appeal to middle-grade kids. Then we have Catlin who gets taken as a concubine for the alien overlord (not directly stated but it’s much more obvious than whatever Michael and Lindsey are doing together). But it’s way too simplistic for YA. There just isn’t enough worldbuilding. Things get glossed over all the time, from Jesse’s first two weeks after invasion to any grieving he does for his former life to more reactions from other people (Betty is really the sole human outside their little group that contributes to the plot).
Frankly I’m not sure who this is supposed to appeal to. The writing is extremely barebones and spends longer tossing about various issues like animal rights or racism between people than dealing with the things that could be going on in an alien invasion.
All in all, this feels like a great idea and a great title that got tied to a poor execution. Not Recommended.