Ralwil Turth, an intergalactic space being, has crash-landed on Earth.
After a quick study of humans, Ralwil shape-shifts his alien body into a human one in hopes of blending in while he works to repair his spacecraft. The crash site is a family farm where Ralwil, now in white, adult, male, human form, befriends white 11-year-old Grady Johnson and his widowed mother, staying on in exchange for help on the farm. Realizing the family is struggling to make ends meet, Ralwil takes the DNA from a $20 bill and engineers a fast-growing money tree that he plants on the farm. The spending spree that follows alerts the local banker, who has befriended Ma with the ulterior motive of repossessing the house to sell off at a profit. This slow-moving tale does not rise above its clichéd premise. Though there is a sympathetic tone for the widow and her children, this book is wrought with structural issues, and the time period is unclear (the mention of Star Wars on a movie theater’s marquee narrows it down to the past 40 years or so). The continuity becomes fragmented as previously consistently alternating chapters from Ralwil’s and Grady’s third-person perspectives are suddenly interrupted with new, adult characters’ chapters, a jarring shift that calls the book’s audience into question. Important details are left unaddressed, especially at what is supposed to be the climax.
Like Ralwil’s craft, this doesn’t fly. (Science fiction. 10-14)