Near-future alien-contact story cycle from British author Brown (Helix, 2007, etc.) comprising nine previously published pieces plus three originals (one a collaboration) and other linked material that connects the various stories into an approximation of a novel.
The Kéthani announce themselves by instantaneously erecting huge crystal monuments, later known as Onward Stations, all over the world. Their gift is immortality: Anybody that receives one of their implants will be resurrected and given the choice of returning to Earth or journeying among the stars as ambassadors. The returnees are psychologically improved, too; the crime rate among them is zero. Many cultures at first react violently, but as the years pass this dwindles into insignificance. These developments are filtered through the stories told by a group of friends in the local pub in a Yorkshire village, including the sometime narrator, doctor Khalid Azzam. One of the friends, Richard Lincoln, becomes a ferryman, that is, he collects the implanted ones after death and transmits them to the Kéthani starship for resurrection. Richard’s wife, Barbara, hates and fears the Kéthani, and resists implantation—until she has a deathbed conversion. Local detective Doug Standish ponders the impossible murder of a woman who didn’t really seem to exist. Khalid, probably the least convincing character, grows angry and resentful at his wife Zara’s intellectual growth; they part, and Khalid commits suicide while contriving to make it look like a murder.
Resembling a cross between John Wyndham and Bob Shaw: Beautifully rendered and quietly effective, though once you get the idea the impact diminishes.