cover image This Weightless World

This Weightless World

Adam Soto. Astra House, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-66260-063-0

Soto’s debut, a purported alien contact novel, disappoints, arguably lacking both aliens and contact. Like characters in a 1970s New Yorker story, his raft of protagonists drift verbosely through purposeless lives—among them Sevi del Toro, a cellist who settled for teaching rather than performing and endlessly regrets it; his ex-girlfriend Ramona, a hacker turned Google employee who can’t find a reason to use her skills; and Eason, one of Sevi’s students, who’s tugged into drug-running by his cousin. Their angst gains an external focus when, on New Year’s Day 2012, SETI announces the discovery of an intentional radio signal emanating from the distant planet Omni-7xc. The focus could as easily have been the Occupy movement or the Syrian war, two among many big-issue cameos, but it all ends up just fodder for the characters’ internal churn. The signal eventually stops, and neither characters nor reader care much. The lone truly science fictional narrator, astronaut He Zhen, develops a distinct perspective on the meaninglessness, but she’s removed from the others by culture and light years, so what insight she gains is as drearily empty as all the rest. Sci-fi fans can skip this one. Agent: Marya Spence, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Nov.)