The Alien Stranger
by Bob Ticer

"I belong to a secret society. We are scientists with more advanced knowledge than other scientists have so far learned of."

This genre-defying novel is equal parts science fiction, crime thriller, and climate fiction. Distracted by surprisingly persistent hummingbirds on her ride to work one day, Kayla crashes her bike into Bard, an up-and-coming football star. Kayla loses an earring in the confusion, and Bard happens to have a pair that a man on the street just insisted on selling to him. Unbeknownst to Bard and Kayla, their chance encounter begins to involve them both in the plan of a man they come to know as “the alien stranger.” The stranger asks Kayla for help getting his living essentials, as he is in hiding. At first, Kayla assumes he is an undocumented immigrant, but the word “alien” soon seems more apt. The alien stranger controls sophisticated technology, including drones that look like hummingbirds, communication devices that look like jewelry, and hacking skills that he uses to reroute criminals’ illegal gains to good purposes. The “essentials” he needs for living go beyond groceries, and he seems to want to help Kayla and her friends fix Earth’s climate problems.

The various plot lines in this story make it a difficult book to categorize, but they help keep it interesting. While some may be intrigued by the sustainable community that the alien stranger helps orchestrate, more action-oriented readers will appreciate Kayla’s work with the FBI and subterfuge with drug dealers’ schemes. The more fantastical elements are balanced with moments of realism. For example, the FBI’s outright disbelief and confusion when Kayla explains the alien stranger are almost humorous in their verisimilitude. While the text uses some outdated language to refer to its Black characters, it treats them with dignity and respect. This forward-thinking story will give readers much to consider and offers real-world solutions for positive change even without the help of an alien stranger.

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