This novel from Delas Heras uses a well-trod science fiction trope—first contact with aliens—as the foundation for a light-hearted romp through lower Manhattan as a man searches for his lost cat.
Set in 1995, the story starts when an alien spaceship lands on the roof of an East Village apartment building, disguised as an unobtrusive water tower. The lone alien inside—a “space turtle” with two heads and two personalities named AxzleProva—is on a mission to identify intelligent life on planet Earth, and their most promising candidate is a species known as the house cat.
As the alien observes the surrounding lifeforms in their urban habitat, a struggling musician named Ollie in the same building discovers his cat Pirate is missing. Thus begins a desperate search that includes points of view from Ollie’s friend and potential love interest Zara, a deranged old neighbor, a woman with a thing for bunny costumes, and a superintendent stuck in a loveless relationship.
The story’s strength is also its weakness: While the realistic depictions of the slice-of-life events of the various characters’ lives (riding the subway to work, ordering lunch at a falafel shop, etc.) deepen character depth and further the plot incrementally, they also radically decrease overall tension and momentum. The low intensity and lack of action of some sequences is more than compensated for, however, by a conclusion that is both satisfying and surprising.
Another noteworthy aspect of the narrative—both in terms of humor and social commentary—is the way in which the aliens perceive humankind. When AxzleProva initially lands, the two-headed turtle views Earth’s dominant species—”the warlike and environmentally reckless Homo sapiens”—as a potential planetary infestation. Later, AxzleProva describes humans as “meddling and murderous overgrown monkeys.”
Powered by a whimsical narrative voice, quirky characters, and some laugh-out-loud scenes, this story will prove highly amusing to readers who enjoy light science fiction.
Also available in ebook and audio book.