Review: Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences

Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences
Brian Yanksy
Candlewick Press
October 2010

I’ve never written a negative review before, and I have to admit that I’m hesitant, because I can’t even imagine the amount of effort that goes in to writing a book. I want to be honest, though, and since I haven’t read much else lately (oh grad school…), it’s review this or review nothing…

Jesse’s sitting in history class when day when he notices, suddenly, that all of his classmates are asleep. So’s the teacher. In fact, when he goes outside, it turns out that almost everyone in the world has fallen “asleep” – a race of aliens called Sanginians have taken over Earth, and only a few people, including Jesse, remain alive. A few – days? weeks? months? – after the invasion, Jesse finds himself working as slave at the home of Lord Vert, the leader of the alien colony formerly known as Earth. He’s making friends – including Michael, a former college football player, a Paris Hilton-esque model called Lindsay, and Lauren, a smart, overachieving girl who had big plans to save the world before the Sangians came. Soon Jesse and the others realize they’re developing telepathic powers – they can hear other people’s thoughts, and Jesse finds himself walking the in the dreams of another a girl, a prisoner who thinks they can escape.

This book is funny in an irreverent sort of way (the aliens say “We’re sorry for your loss” as they off human characters), but it suffers from two-dimensional characters and uneven plotting. All of the secondary characters, but Lindsey and Lauren in particular, are not much more than a collection of cliches (when they’re planning to escape, Lindsey, the model, assembles complete summer and winter wardrobes for each of the friends). It makes it hard to care what happens to the characters, and events don’t have the emotional impact they should.

The pacing’s also pretty strange. The first chapter starts with the invasion and ends with Jesse at Lord Vert’s home, but we get almost no information about what happens in between. Obviously it’s important to keep the plot moving swiftly, but I spent much of the first chapter confused and wanting more details. Later, a character is introduced, then killed off in the next in what seems an excuse for the author to make a point. The moment seems like it should be moving, but it reads as pretty empty.

I did appreciate the inclusion of some interesting philosophical questions – the alien race is very environmentally friendly, for example, and even though they’re clearly the bad guys, the characters can see that the aliens’ ways might be better for the Earth than the humans. Michael is African-American, and he draws some parallels between the humans relationship with the Sanginians and slavery in America that are nicely done.

I also liked inclusion of correspondence and personal logs written by Lord Vert, the ruling alien. Like the philosophical points mentioned above, these went a long way toward humanizing the aliens and giving the book some interesting shades of grey.

Overall, not a favorite, and not recommended for fans of traditional sci-fi, but a fact-paced book that will appeal to some teen boys, especially reluctant readers.

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