Sunday, June 2, 2013

Review: Damocles by S.G. Redling

Loul Pell is a middle-class, midlevel government functionary, stranded in a dead-end job and resigned to the loss of his ambitious dreams. Meg Dupris is a traveler from a distant galaxy, haunted by tragedy and committed to a lifelong journey of discovery. Literally worlds apart, they are two unexpectedly kindred spirits, whose chance meeting will be the first step toward life-changing history: contact with an extraterrestrial race.Dispatched from Earth after being thrown into chaos by the prospect of human life nurtured on distant planets by an ancient alien race, Meg and her fellow explorers aboard the spaceship Damocles have found — in the far-flung planet Didet and the strange civilization that has developed under its seven suns — the proof that will forever alter humankind's role in the cosmos. But the efforts of both Earthers and the Dideto to forge a peaceful, productive bond may be doomed by two very human traits: mistrust and superstition.

Source: NetGalley
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Brilliance Corporation
Author Links: Goodreads | Website | Twitter

I enjoyed reading Damocles, but I'm going to bet not everyone will like it as much as I did.  There are probably some questions you need to ask yourself before you decide whether or not to pick this one up.
Are you looking for action, romance, or maybe a just good alien invasion story? If so, move on to something else.
This is a story about trust and friendship.
Ok. Touchy-feely stuff is not my thing. At all. In fact, I actively avoid anything that features children or animals on the cover. Well, unless the children or animals are covered with blood and gore.
Anything about the Power of Friendship (think: Ya-Ya Sisterhood)? Out.
Nicholas Sparks? No. 
I'm not saying these books aren't good. Obviously, they make lots of people happy. I'm just not one of those people.
Having said that, I was pretty shocked that I liked Damocles. I think the thing that really saved it for me was the surprising amount of humor in the story. I'm not saying I was clutching my sides with tears streaming down my cheeks, but I definitely giggled.

Damocles is told in Meg and Loul's alternating POVs. Sometimes I find multiple POVs too distracting, but this is one instance in which I don't think the story would have worked as well without both sides to the story. Meg is a language specialist from Earth, and Loul is a low-level government employee from Didet. As the story unfolds, they form an unusual bond with each other.
And before you perverts ask, no. That bond has nothing to do with Meg getting some kinky alien lovin'.
Jeez, you guys are gross!

The basic plot is, sometime in the distant future, the inhabitants of Earth receive a message (the how is not explained) from an advanced species stating that they were the ones who seeded the planet. Not only that, but there are other planets out there that they seeded, as well. The message included the coordinates of the other humanoid planets, so that they could reach out to them if they wanted to. Shockingly, some of the religious groups didn't take this news very well. After a few attacks on scientific buildings, the government (of the world?) decided to fund an expedition to discover if the message was real. This is where Meg and the crew of Damocles come in. Meg is a brilliant linguist, and her job is to help the crew communicate with any alien life forms they might find.

Loul is introduced as your run-of-the-mill nerd. He has a desk job that he hates, and a group of friends that he hangs out with to play a game called Circle (which sounds a lot like Dungeons and Dragons). He's disillusioned with his life, because he was demoted and labeled a nut job after he wrote a What To Do If Aliens Invade report. So imagine his surprise when the Men In Black collect him and drop him off at an alien landing site! The poor guy is torn between pooping his pants and totally geeking out. In the end, his inner dork wins, and he ends up being the one who makes First Contact.

The rest of the book is filled with many funny (yet touching) moments. And as the two groups try to learn how to communicate with each other, there are some hilarious misunderstandings. Now, some of it was kind of  kind of boring (like I said, this is not an action-driven plot), but for the most part I thought it was pretty entertaining.
It also made me think. I mean, what if aliens really are out there? And what if they aren't some hyper-intelligent beings who want to spread peace? Or what if they aren't evil reptilian space monsters hell-bent on galactic domination? What if they're just like us?
Personally, I'll be kind of let down if they can't at least shoot laser beams out of their eyes.

*cue theme to Star Trek*


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