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by Adam Soto

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-662-60063-0
Publisher: Astra House

Humankind’s first contact from a far-away planet is devastatingly short-lived in Soto’s debut.

It's New Year's Day 2012, and the people of the SETI Institute make an astonishing announcement: They have proof of extraterrestrial life. About 75 light-years away, a planet called Omni-7xc is sending some kind of signal. What that signal is meant to communicate is hard to pin down, but before anyone can even wrap their minds around it, it disappears. Many people are of the opinion that whoever was reaching out from Omni-7xc decided humanity wasn’t worth building a relationship with, a pretty plausible explanation considering nuclear war, poverty, oppression, and all those other societal ills most folks were happy to ignore until they discovered they were being watched by another civilization. Though the novel gestures toward wider global reactions, Soto wisely focuses on a few specific humans: Sevi, a disillusioned former music teacher; his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Ramona, a Google programmer working on a top-secret project; and Eason, Sevi’s cello student, who's reeling from the death of a childhood friend. The three of them grapple with the question of how anyone can be a moral person in a world where the vast majority of individuals are powerless to make a meaningful impact against institutional and systemic problems like racism, gentrification, and state violence. Soto’s characters are finely drawn, as are their philosophically thorny conflicts with each other. Ramona and Sevi’s divide over her work at Google gets the furthest into the weeds of Soto’s questions about personal accountability in an unjust world, but Eason’s journey toward processing his friend’s death and deciding what to do with his own life will linger the longest in readers’ hearts.

Amid the discovery of alien life, a touching meditation on humanity.