A classic first-contact scenario in the near future ends somewhat inconclusively in this debut novel.
After the aliens called the Wannoshay crash-land on Earth, their presence injects tension into a United States and Canada already roiling with social unrest. The Wannoshay’s tendency for sudden, random violence, plus the mysterious explosions that occur in their vicinity, don’t help to endear them to their human hosts, either. Only a few people—a Chicago priest, a single mother working in a Milwaukee brewery, an unemployed blue-collar worker, a documentary maker addicted to stimulants and a somewhat addled, elderly Native American—choose to get close enough to the aliens to interpret their cryptic utterances and telepathically induced visions, and to help them resolve their troubles both with humans and within themselves. Jasper has a real gift for evoking a mood, and for the most part, manages to make the Wannoshay seem genuinely, creepily alien and inexplicable. But the book lacks complexity and depth in both its plot and characters, whom Jasper (stories: Gunning for the Buddha, 2005) establishes with only the thinnest of pasts. Portions of the book were previously published as short stories, and, unfortunately, it shows.
A tale that feels both patched-together and decidedly incomplete.