Selena Castillo proclaims herself to be an alien, and a pair of physicists begin to think that she’s the real deal.
Sten, an educator and nonfiction author (The Simple Sorcerer’s Probability Primer, 2008), offers an erudite sci-fi narrative with heavy doses of social critiques and romance. A captivating mystery woman from the mountains of Mexico, Selena Castillo may look 30 but claims to be thousands of years old and the last of her kind. Jaded tabloid-newspaper vet Tony Sturgess appoints himself her manager/agent/frustrated boyfriend, and he plans to ride the media gravy train, although he doesn’t believe a word of Selena’s story. Meanwhile, divorced physicist Hal Bronson is embroiled in a nova-hot affair with longtime student/protégé Dora (this upholds The Big Bang Theory impression of science campuses as sexual hothouses). The brainy lovers publish a paper proposing that the Large Hadron Collider could, without warning, set off an accidental Earth-vaporizing energy release. The storylines eventually intersect, as Selena, a celebrity megastar by now, announces her true agenda. The basic ET-or-not-ET premise, let’s face it, was hoary even when Gore Vidal riffed on it in 1955’s Visit to a Small Planet, but Sten has some fun with the observational humor, thoughtful pontifications, insights, and even raw shocks, even if the plot’s momentum must always yield to philosophical discourse (and spoofs of the likes of Morton Downey Jr., Wally George, and Bill O’Reilly have definitely passed their sell-by dates). In the third act, the action picks up abruptly with the sudden appearance of a new and frightening interstellar threat. This boosts the tension even more and ultimately gives the story the quality of high-tech fable.
Diverting, high-IQ social and eco critique garbed in a semifamiliar alien spacesuit.