I finally finished the book I was reading and, well...
It was not good.
It's called Out There by LJA and it's got a lot of problems. I feel like I could write a novel of my own on all the things that are wrong with it, but here's my sparknotes version.
It's basically about an alien civilization that contacts a woman on earth, because they want to help fix earths problems, mainly the climate. So she goes to their planet. It takes place in 2030.
First, the mechanics. There's a lot wrong that could have been fixed with a single edit round. Words missing from sentences, incorrect formatting, incorrect punctuation. Plus, some words are repeated WAY too often, or used incorrectly, or just plain made up. It's a self published work, but I don't see that as an excuse to not go over your work with a fine tooth comb before putting it out into the world.
Second, the characters. They're all pretty damn flat. All the women of any importance besides the MC are portrayed as sex-crazed and catty and pretty much nothing else, which is astonishing to me because the author is female too. A lot of the women held respectable professions as scientists, but that was never explored. And for the males, most of them don't have any unique traits, so they might as well all be the same person. The main male lead was borderline misogynistic and abusive but everyone loved him anyway. The 2nd male lead victim blamed his partner when her mental health declined and for that he gets a hard pass from me. There was really only one likeable male character with any personality, but he was just sort of there and never really did anything important. My favorite character, though, was the MC's cat because it had the sense to fuck off at the start of the book and ran away to go live somewhere else.
Third, the romance. Arguably the worst part, it felt forced and rushed and not developed at all. I won't go into the details here, because I'll never finish this review if I do, but there's nothing driving the main pairing because the fact that the author seems to want it to be part of the story. But there's no chemistry between the two and there was a perfect opportunity to develop the relationship between them around 1/3 into the book, but absolutely nothing was done with it. And like I said earlier, the main male lead has a terrible personality.
Fourth, the world building. I'll spoiler this bit.
So apparently the aliens and humans are distant cousins, and at some point in the past (I think around the time ancient Egypt was thriving? I'm not sure honestly) a bunch of them got dumped on Earth because they were bad people. So Earth basically became a penal colony or something. But the alien culture and earth culture are WAY to similar for it to make sense. The aliens eat a lot of the same stuff as we do, like pizza, and have pretty much all the same animals on their planet. They have country pubs with steak and their clothing is the same as Earth's. It just doesn't make any sense.
Fifth, the plot. NOTHING HAPPENS. All anyone ever does is eat and drink wine and have sex and meetings and check their email and drive around Canada for whatever reason. The aliens are supposed to fix the climate.
WELL THE CLIMATE AIN'T FIXED. It's gets super weird too, because it becomes less about fixing the climate, and more about trying to denuclearize the world and get rid of guns and terrorism. And I guess there's some merit to that, but that is NOT what I signed up for when I read the back blurb and decided to read it.
And on a related note, the means of their "saving" us is bizarre. They pick a random lady off Facebook and give her information (while also inexplicably giving her the ability to SENSE GUNS nearby, improving her physical abilities, and her mind, though that last one's not really elaborated on much) to post on social media. As if everyone is suddenly gonna listen to this nobody from Canada posting about wars and the climate on the internet.
There's no tension, no question goes on for more than 2 pages before it gets answered. No mystery. Nothing worth caring about.
Sixth, the research. OOOOH BOY. Where to start? So many things in this are gotten wrong. Here's some of the factual inaccuracies I can remember off the top of my head:
EVERYTHING ABOUT CANADA - the animals, the geography, the culture, the way people talk... (it's all Australia)
A 10th floor office in the Pentagon
The Bill of Rights being in the Declaration of Independence
The Law - Two points here. First, near the start, a characters BF threatens to kill her IN WRITING, and our freaking LAWYER MC is like "the police can't do anything." Second, I don't know much about international law, particularly pertaining to the authority granted to foreign intelligence agencies, but a lot of what was in the book about that seemed... farfetched.
TRILLIONS of people using Facebook.
Google is your friend, LJA! Give it a shot!
Seventh, the writing style. BORING, BORING, BORING. The old adage of "Show, don't tell" rings very true here. This book put to to sleep multiple times. There's lots of repetition too. I swear, we're introduced to the MC's dog at least three times in the first 20 pages.
Eighth, the message. This is actually one of my biggest beefs with this book. The author clearly has a lot of problems with humanity, and this book mostly feels like an excuse for her to complain about them. Some are shallow, like not liking today's music or movies. But the overall premise of the book has a deep seated issue, that being it's complete lack of faith in humans. Humans can't solve their issues. They're incapable and need the superior aliens to bail them out.
The back of the book says that it will "fill you with hope for the future." Well, I sure don't feel hopeful. I really doubt any aliens are gonna appear from nowhere and save our asses in the next ten years. Because, according to this book, we ain't gonna be saved otherwise.
On a similar note, the book portrays the aliens as something humanity should strive to achieve, seeing as Earth humans and the aliens used to be one and the same. But the thing is, the aliens lack all the things that make humans human. They don't experience emotions like we do, they don't make mistakes, they don't have children out of love and desire to have a family, they don't experience hardships. They're basically perfect. Rather than embracing all the flawed things that make us what we are, the book tries to paint us so negatively because of them. The MC in particular extols the virtues of the aliens. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Also, I really dislike how it handled the female characters, as I mentioned above. There's a lot of veiled slut-shaming and poor treatment of mental health issues. There's also some really unfortunate social implications that I won't get into, but overall, the message is not a good one.
So, is there anything good about this?
Well, the premise has promise. It's just executed so poorly that I feel like pretty much the entire story as it is now would need to be scrapped for any of that promise to come though.
It also made me laugh a lot, though it clearly wasn't supposed to. There's actually very little intentional humor. But at this point, I'll take what I can get.
Overall, it gets a 2/10 from me.