cover image The Quiet Invasion

The Quiet Invasion

Sarah Zettel. Aspect, $33.99 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-446-52489-6

Zettel (Fool's War, etc.) has a gift for creating fascinating aliens with rich cultures and radically different, though still comprehensible, mindsets. She's somewhat less successful at portraying intergalactic politics, though in this novel she valiantly struggles--and almost succeeds--in generating a realistic future where a nearly omnipotent United Nations on Earth controls what happens to the colonies on Mars, the Moon and, especially, Venus. The Venus colony is the life's work of Dr. Helen Failia, who has done everything possible to make the base a self-sufficient outpost rather than a temporary research station. Just as Helen is about to lose funding for her beloved city, the surface of Venus sprouts what appears to be an alien artifact. Closely monitoring the humans' discovery of the artifact are aliens from another planet, who are looking to claim Venus as their new home. These aliens are in dire straits because their ancient, living cities are falling ill and dying. Their complicated belief system dictates that they cannot colonize Venus if humans have a legitimate claim to the planet, but if they judge the humans insane, they can destroy them like weeds. While Zettel's humans plod through the fairly pedestrian plotting, her aliens soar forward in unexpected and wonderful ways, making this a first-contact novel worth reading and relishing. (Feb.)