“This is a silly book, but I had a lot of fun writing it,” Ringel writes in prefatory material, setting clear expectations for the madness to follow. Ringel’s spry sense of humor shines throughout, and the closeness of the story at times to 21st century realities—the doublespeak of Homeland Security, the incompetence of the “Prez,” an industry leader’s zeal to allow people the freedom to have their brains destroyed—situate the tale firmly in the satirical realm. The best method to stop kleptrons from biting: wearing tin foil over one’s head, a technique that inspires the observation, “Tinfoil bonnets didn’t exactly have a sterling reputation among the sane.”
Ringel follows the lead of other comedic science fiction in making nothing particularly alien about the Latternites, primarily using them as a foil to criticize human behavior. That’s not to say Redalp’s not strange: one moment of alien cultural exchange with humanity involves the sharing of a biological sample, the details of which are best left unspoiled. The story alternates between Gilner’s reminiscences and Reldap’s journals, with a welcome emphasis on science, but the novel’s driven by events rather than voices, and readers should not expect much in the way of interiority. Instead, this is a playful pageant and thought experiment, working through the possibilities of the scenario with wit and ingenuity.
Takeaway: This satiric first-contact story explores how ludicrous American culture could look to alien eyes.
Great for fans of: Douglas Adams, Robert Sheckley.
Design and typography: N/A
Marketing copy: B