When a massive alien object appears in the skies over the United Kingdom, an English scientist finds himself part of a team assigned to make contact in Slutsky’s debut novella.
This is a compact, fablelike tale of humanity’s first encounter with aliens. Cambridge astrophysicist Alan Norton is very interested when, without warning, a huge circular object materializes in stationary orbit above England, creating the disquieting illusion that there are two suns in the sky during the daytime hours. The mute but forceful display of superior extraterrestrial technology sends the human race into a near-anarchic state of panic. Is it a message of friendship or something more ominous? International pressure comes to bear on Great Britain to arrive at some sort of answer, because the object is parked in the space above their airspace. Therefore, Norton is selected to be among a small multinational team of scientists and seasoned Russian cosmonauts who will blast off for a rendezvous with the 6-mile-long disc. Their mission is to make contact with the intruder—or, possibly, declare immediate war unilaterally. It turns out that the incomprehensible nature of the UFO has led world leaders down a path of fatalistic suppositions, and to a conclusion that any possible threat must be countered immediately with deadly force. Readers may possibly interpret this as a broadside against the Bush Doctrine. Slutsky doesn’t stretch the lean narrative any farther than he needs to, however, as some critics thought Carl Sagan did in the similarly themed Contact (1985). Instead, he pays tribute to mankind’s scientific progress and shows how much farther Homo sapiens has to go to transcend belligerence, suspicion, and savagery. That said, he does end the brief tale with a note of guarded optimism. Also, there’s a romantic subplot that manages not to feel like excess baggage.
A basic sci-fi parable that doesn’t push boundaries but also doesn’t outstay its welcome.