A brilliant, reckless troublemaker appears to be the only person immune to the mind-control camouflage of benign aliens dwelling incognito on Earth.
An intro by the author’s psychiatrist explains that Halt (Pillars of Amorum, 2018, etc.) has ADHD and channels that disability into the protagonist of this opener to a sci-fi trilogy. That foreknowledge sets up expectations of a disease-of-the-week TV movie (or something akin to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vs. the Flying Saucers), which prove happily inaccurate. Caelans are not monstrous space invaders but a human-appearing alien race, both technologically and morally advanced well beyond Homo sapiens. Hidden in elite positions in society, they’ve studied humankind with fascination for more than 50 years. A vital distinction between Caelans and earthlings: the aliens’ mental “psy” powers that they can use for protection and persuasion. This ability has kept the extraterrestrials’ secret—until they meet Chase Madison, an unstable Chicagoan diagnosed with ADHD. Chase has a history of violence but is also smart and fearless when it counts. Avery, a beautiful (but terribly naïve) Caelan scientist, and Nathan, her stolid fiance, try to evaluate Chase’s resistance to psy. An even bigger threat, however, is that Caelans on Earth are falling prey to negative traits—jealousy, thirst for power, and especially anger—that their species seemingly overcame eons ago. The Caelan “Regulus,” or leader (the author cleverly substitutes high-minded Latin for a purely invented alien language), having lost his wife, has literally gone mad with grief and is planning the unthinkable. The author’s premise may remind genre readers of Zenna Henderson’s humanistic The People stories. Halt sets up rich, emotional character minefields and conflicts without letting his antihero’s pathology take the focus off the bigger picture. Much remains unresolved at the end (only the beginning of this saga). But readers of international sci-fi who revere (deservedly) the Arkady and Boris Strugatsky classic Hard to Be a God will want to check out Halt’s thoughtful take on what can go wrong when incredible and supremely ethical outsiders try to blend in with the coarse natives. If Chase is a protagonist as volatile as Randle Patrick McMurphy, Halt’s prose stylings throughout are steady, sober, and finely honed, refraining from dropping Hollywood FX whammies in a manner more befitting Cylons than Caelans.
A sci-fi series opener with ADHD as a key component that deserves all the attention it can get.