omeone once told me that Star Trek: Voyagers was essentially “Star Trek for Women”. I suppose I’d have to agree. Not weighing in on that series (I’ve heard a lot of gripes about it), I’m actually focusing on the novel Becoming Alien, by Rebecca Ore.
This is another one of my Used Bookstore finds, another one that came from 1988. So, Tom lives in poverty in a backwoods farm with his brother Warren. Parents dead, the chickens just not making the revenue, the brothers turn to drug manufacturing. And during this time a strange alien vessel crashes in the woods nearby – two aliens are burned beyond recognition but the last one, a bat-ish creature, lives.
Slowly (very slowly) they teach it words and learn to communicate (in stumbling fashion, as you’d expect from two hicks with their pet alien). But then everything turns tragic as the bat, pining for his kind, tries to escape and is shot, with the drugs the brothers use on him finishing him off. And, of course, shortly after that, the real aliens show up. After some legal maneuvering, Warren ends up in a loonie bin and Tom is taken off-world to become a cadet.
I was rather hoping the novel would pick up the pace now that we were on an alien world but, really, it was just the big city with more freaks. They even have bus lines and traffic signals. Not a self-driving car (or even a damn hovercar) to be seen. And as for “Tom Brown’s School Days”, there is very little – he flunks chemistry and doesn’t seem to attend classes. It’s really not part of the book at all.
And here’s my real problem with the novel. Thrown in with aliens, it seems everyone just wants to talk about their differences, about their xenophobic phobias, about their homesickness, about all that (here we go) “woman’s stuff”. Nobody seems to say, “Okay, this will be strange and difficult but I’ll have to deal with it.” Everyone seems to go catatonic and there are long chapters of slowly healing them back. Really, the story just drags. And some of the halting “alien speech” just makes it worse.
When Tom finally goes on a contact mission, I hoped the novel would tighten up. But no, now we had more aliens with more phobias and emotional problems. Like children in Sunday school, crying for their parents, nobody seemed to be able to focus on the big picture (whatever that was). And that was the other problem – I didn’t seem to get the point of what political games were going on – I was still trying to figure out the characters and not their Machiavellian ploys.
And at the end (I limped through the last forty pages) the novel just stops. I actually turned the page, saw nothing, and thought, “That’s it?”
So, yes, if you want to read between my lines, I wasn’t really a fan of this novel. If you’d like to try it yourself, you’ll find my copy in a curb-library on Bumby Ave. Good luck (in all regards).