I was browsing the science fiction selection, when this book caught my eye. It’s a while since I’ve read an alien encounter story and I decided to give it a whirl, especially after reading the sample when I discovered the formatting and editing was of a high standard.
Telisa Relachik studied to be a xenoarchaeologist in a future where humans have found alien artifacts but haven’t ever encountered live aliens. Of all the aliens whose extinct civilizations are investigated, the Trilisks are the most advanced and the most mysterious. Telisa refuses to join the government because of her opposition to its hard-handed policies restricting civilian investigation and trade of alien artifacts, despite the fact that her estranged father is a captain in the United Nations Space Force.
When a group of artifact smugglers recruits her, she can’t pass up the chance at getting her hands on objects that could advance her life’s work. But she soon learns her expectations of excitement and riches come with serious drawbacks as she ends up fighting for her life on a mysterious alien planet. Except the book doesn’t start in Telisa’s viewpoint – the Prologue pitchforks us into the head of the intriguing forty-legged alien, Kirizzo. It’s always a big ask to depict an alien with conviction, hence most science fiction authors’ reluctance to undertake such demanding characterisation. So I was impressed at McCloskey’s spirited effort, which he just about pulls off. Unquestionably, Kirizzo is my favourite character. While there is nothing wrong with Telisa or the other human protagonists, I found Kirizzo’s strangeness engrossing and unusual.
I also very much liked the environment where the alien encounters the humans. It provides plenty of tension and I felt even more could have been made of this creepy place – I hope it will turn up again in future episodes of this story. Meanwhile, Telisa’s story arc, where she joins a smuggling gang, works well enough. The writing is smooth and there was nothing in her character that jarred. But the vividness accompanying McCloskey’s writing about Kirizzo wasn’t here. The book isn’t a long one and cracks along at a fair pace with plenty of pleasing details that flesh out McCloskey’s world. The ending brings the story arc to a satisfying conclusion, with sufficient dangling plotpoints to encourage a reader to go hunting for the second book in the sequence. Once again, it is Kirizzo’s story where the climax really packs a punch – and is the one which will prompt me to add The Trilisk AI to my already-bulging virtual bookcase.