Book #100: Fear the Sky (2014)

feartheskyAuthor: Stephen Moss
Language: English and a few sentences of French
Length: 1216 minutes (20 hours, 16 minutes)
Finished listening on: 2 March 2016

This audiobook came to my attention both because it was recommended on Audible’s site, and because it has the same narrator as The Martian, R.C. Bray – despite the guy mispronouncing some words, he is still a compelling narrator and commands attention. I also felt like a bit of pulpy sci fi, and the alien invasion theme of the book reminded me of the Zerg in the game I was concurrently playing.

The story is that an alien race travels through space to covertly invade Earth, and the book tells the story of the humans who discover the invasion by accident, but also of the android servants of the aliens, who infiltrate several militaries on Earth.

My first impression of the book was that it was a bit of fun, but also I was struck how straight-white-American-male the protagonist presumptive was in the first few chapters – for example, the book sets up a tepid romance between him and another character at the beginning. I sat up a bit when the book killed off her and some other characters in an opening-act twist, and he wasn’t the protagonist for the entire book, as it jumps between a few characters later on. But it still has that leery air to it.

The book does show some hallmarks of a first-time author who self-published without editing the book properly, quite apart from it being super-long. For some reason almost entire conversations in French were rendered without translation – it came across as the author being excited to show off his high school French. Not translating a foreign language in a book is a cardinal sin as far as I’m concerned, unless the intent is to occlude something from the main character (in a book, that is – I’d say the opposite for a movie). As it happens, I can understand French, but I’ve seen books that didn’t translate their Spanish, and that annoyed me.

R.C. Bray, who I’d already established can’t even pronounce French loanwords in English, had a bit of trouble with this section. I also established later that he actually can’t do any foreign accents except for Indian (this was useful in The Martian, where one major character was Indian, but not in this book), so a lot of his foreign characters sounded too similar.

As for the story, the alien invasion’s motivation wasn’t so believable, but I appreciated that the author didn’t make the aliens monolithic, like he actually acknowledged that there would be cultural divides among them – but even then, we don’t get to see that much of them, and the story of their planet is only relayed to us by another character. There are also some strange pacing issues, when the book jumps forward in time suddenly.

Despite all that, the story is compelling, and I enjoyed hearing it. I think I’d have liked it better if those issues were not present, but I did like it overall. I think I might pass on the next installment, even though I’d be interested to see how the story progresses. It’s a bit on the long side, after all.

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