by Rick Wilber



300pp/$25.99/November 2016

Alien Morning
Cover by Stephan Martiniere

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In 1988, Rick Wilber published the short story “Suffer the Children” In Asimov’s, the first of his S’hudonni series. Over the years, he has added other stories to the series, finally publishing the novel Alien Morning, which details the first contact with the S’hudonni as seen, literally, through the eyes of former professional basketball player Peter Holman.

Peter Holman’s basketball career allowed him to go pro in a minor European league where he could be a star player, but he was under no illusions about where he would wind up if he tried to play in a major league or the NBA. Nevertheless, it was a good career for him that made use of his skills, ended early by an injury. His forced retirement, however, allowed Peter to get in on the ground floor of virtual broadcasting, the ultimate evolution from today’s reality shows, in which subscribers could not only share Peter’s experience through images, but also through his other senses. Peter is carefully building his audience through carefully crafted interviews, charitable events, and a mock relationship with one of the hottest young actresses around, Chloe Cary.

Just as his life was turned upside down by his injury, his plans are thrown a curve when he not only happens to see the first signs of alien life, but is brought into the loop by various agencies, and the aliens, to help stream the historic events and try to bring the aliens' story to people around the globe. However, not everything is as it seems and Peter finds himself a potential pawn in an incredibly complex game involving the aliens and the various scientific and political entities on the Earth. The discovery that part of the game involves the sibling rivalry between two brothers adds an intriguing element to the story.

Although the primary focus of the novel is on Holman's interaction with the alien S'hudonni and the slow revelation about their purpose on Earth, of more interest is the manner in which Wilber portrays Holman's relationships with Tom, his genius scientist brother, and Kait, hiw estranged, drug-addled sister. Along with implied secrets about their dead parents, these relationships come across as realistic and multi-level. Throughout the novel, both relationships fluctuate in realistic ways and Wilber hints at the manner in which the Holman brothers' father showed very different aspects to each of them. Peter and Tom's relationship is structured as a mirror, in some ways, of the S'hudonni brothers' relationship, although it is still too early to see how either will play out.

Alien morning does have a couple of faults which, it is hoped, will be rectified in the sequel. Based on short stories which have appeared over the years in science fiction magazines, there are times when Wilber’s descriptions of Peter’s personal and family history gets repetitive, giving the impression that the necessary explanations from the different stories were left in when they should have been left out. Also, Alien Morning is the first book of a series, or perhaps a serial, and ends with an unsatisfying ending as it sets Holman, his family, and the aliens up for a sequel, but does not provide a sense of closure within the confines of this individual novel.

Rather than the first book in a series, Alien Morning feels like the first volume in a serial, setting up the story that Wilber really wants to tell. His characters are interesting and real enough to make the reader want to return to find out how their lives will continue to evolve and Wilber's writing is welcoming.

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