||A simple story with a single main
character and the alien that comes to inhabit his head. I quite enjoyed
the buildup, and especially the increase in suspense as they tried to
figure out how to get around all the obstacles in their path to save
Earth. The plan as laid out proceeded as if the problems they
encountered didn't matter, though, making it seem a little too
simplistic. The techno-crystals, which seem to do magic from "our" point
of view, seemed to take on a lot of the properties of the mask in
Asimov's Lucky Starr novels.
This is the story of a man who finds an
alien, and who accepts the fact that the alien, a non-corporeal lifeform,
jumps into his head. He does a lot of complaining about the alien, gets
really mad at it and tells it off at times, but in reality, John
Bandicut knows the right thing to do. It's a good thing, as he thinks,
that the alien really is there to save Earth from destruction, instead
of being part of an invasion force.
The entire story takes place from the
point of view of a single character. That's fine, because the character
and his interaction with the alien (who wants to be called "Charlie",
after some TV show) is well written. Sometimes they are moody together,
while at others they are funny. I liked the datanet neurolink, and the
way John was able to interact with Charlie in there.
The aliens seem to have everything well
planned out. Unfortunately, they didn't count on inept management, which
is rampant on Neptune's moon Triton. Humanity is on Triton because they
detected a strange metal unlike any Earth-formed metal, and they are out
mining it. This was, of course, part of the alien plan, to allow it to
interface with humanity. John's incident with the rover when he found
the Translator and Charlie gets him suspended from rover duty pending an
investigation. He ends up in the mines, where he breaks a leg. Charlie
helps him out by healing the wound quickly.
But I wonder how short-lived this
species is, as the quarx seems to exist in an energy form, and dies
faster as it uses more energy, such as in healing John's leg. Charlie
dies, pretty suddenly, and is replaced with an immature version of
Charlie, which has to learn over again what the original Charlie knew,
and has a slightly different personality.
Then there is Julie, the xenobiologist
who hopes to find an alien artifact, but to whom John is very attracted.
The attraction is mutual, but Charlie thinks human sexual relations are
disgusting, so he interferes at least once with their romance. John has
a lot to say to Charlie after that, to which the alien appears to be
All the while, the humans are getting
closer to the Translator, which is the real brains behind the alien
saviors. For that's what it is: it goes from one solar system to another
in the hopes of interfacing with a member of a species in trouble, so it
can help them avoid extinction. In some cases it is war, and that's the
last mission Charlie came from, where Triton was part of that other
solar system (the small moon was captured by Neptune from somewhere
else, so it might as well be from beyond the Sun's realm).
Finally, when Charlie has healed John's leg,
and he is reassigned to rover duty, he is able to return to the
Translator to give it the data it needs to help save Earth. It turns out
a comet is heading that way, unobserved because it's on the other side
of the sun, and due to budget cuts shutting down observation satellites.
Perhaps the author shares the view of the aliens, who are aghast that
Earth has no defenses against such a threat, while spending trillions of
dollars on war. I know that I do! Are we really uncommon in the galaxy
in that we accept our violent nature against each other, instead of
channeling it toward other species? I think we treat all species
equally, just as poorly as we treat each other...
Bandicut is a decent human being, so he is
really against the idea of stealing a spaceship so he can destroy the
comet on his own (with alien help, of course). This was certainly the
most exciting part of the novel. Even though nothing derailed the plan,
Bandicut had to do some improvising, which kept the suspense up, and
kept me moving from one chapter to the next.
There has to be some miracle technology
that allows Bandicut to achieve his mission, no matter how reluctant he
is. And that comes in the form of three stones given to him by the
Translator. One allows the ship to "thread" space, going in and out of
normal space, which was pretty cool. It even burned out the engines, and
so needed to be switched from one engine nozzle to another. It even kept
him cool and radiation-free when he passed so close to the sun. Lucky
Starr did this in Lucky Starr and the
Pirates of the Asteroids, using the miracle-mask that the aliens he
found on Mars gave to him, in order to fight crime.
The alien device also allow Bandicut to
survive the impact that vaporizes the comet, even leaving his ship
intact. Although he ends up outside the galaxy, alone because the second
Charlie died after healing him after a ship-board accident, I thought at least
the ship should have been destroyed. The ending seemed anti-climactic
after the theft of the spaceship, and the final pages, where he is about
to dock with some alien space station, unsatisfactory. I assume that's
because the readers are supposed to go on to the next book right away. I
confess I won't be doing that, though probably I should.
I will definitely return to this
universe, as I quite enjoyed the writer's style. I hope the next book
continues in the same manner, but answers some of the questions raised
in this book -like who are the aliens in the space station, and will
Bandicut ever see Julie again?