Society (and possibly human evolution) faces upheaval when babies resembling gray-skinned aliens appear all over the world.
Suddenly, random pregnant mothers around the world give birth to babies with what becomes known as Handel’s Syndrome: froglike gray skin, oversized heads, huge dark eyes, spindly limbs —the stereotype of a Whitley Strieber flying-saucer alien. Officialdom takes little notice of the supposed birth defects at first, with the exception of hard-charging CIA spook Ray Johnston, who finds missilelike empty casings made of alloy Not of This World—evidence of an ET bioweapon seeding the “HS children” and creating an insidious vanguard for an alien invasion. The ensemble narrative, formidably spanning generations, cuts between Johnston’s rising political career, based on alarm and paranoia, and a few of the maturing HS-born “Alien Americans.” Franklin Trinity was abandoned on a church doorstep and raised by compassionate priests and nuns; nonetheless, the increasing intolerance and violence against his kind radicalizes him into becoming an enemy of “monkey people” and their “monkey god.” Jim Miller was born to an initially shocked, uneducated Texas farm family; nonetheless, their acceptance of his appearance makes him a key figure in defending the new species. Peloso (Tiny Ghosts, 2014) visits sci-fi territory previously trodden by John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos and Richard Matheson’s short story “Born of Man and Woman,” but he takes it to a big-picture, humanist level. Characters do tend to come across more like ideas and stances rather than fully three-dimensional personalities, and the dialogue leans toward simplistic exposition or dry scientific explanations (during a briefing, Johnston discusses the odd casings: “The first significant thing that we found was that this material isn’t typical of any known alloy we’ve put into space. I’ve had the object analyzed, and it has a very strange isotopic spectrum. It’s primarily made of steel and tungsten, but the isotopic ratios are unlike those typically found on earth”). But in the honored Rod Serling sci-fi tradition, the premise presents a strong allegory of bigotry and the self-fulfilling worst expectations inherent in xenophobia. Even with the wobbly incorporation of Roswell/Area 51 and UFO mythology, the message comes across powerfully, especially in light of the war on terror.
An effective, moral-driven sci-fi fable clad in alien-invasion costuming.