This is not the usual type of alien invasion story involving hordes of tentacled blobs piloting flying saucers that blast apart our beloved cities with laser beams. Instead this is an invasion by stealth and cunning orchestrated by an alien artificial intelligence.
Erikson weaves a fascinating story of how the invasion unfurls and how humanity deals with this situation. For those who cannot cope, the alien force allows them to commit suicide, so there is not much choice on offer! Literally a case of live and let die.
It all begins with a science fiction author, Samantha August, being zapped on-board a flying saucer of the classic type. She is kept in a small room, with a regular supply of cigarettes and food, where the AI tells her she is going to act as their spokesperson. As she has long (and often tedious) conversations with the AI about human society and its future, the alien master plan slowly unfolds.
Viewed through a multitude of characters scattered across the planet, we see how they cope with huge swathes of land being protected by force fields that send them to the fringes of the continents. Furthermore, the AI is able to anticipate our actions and stops us from hurting each other, which puts all forms of hostile human behaviour from armed combat and to domestic violence in the trash can of history.
Governments are helpless to do anything, and we finally discover (along with the outraged Trumpesque President of the United States) that the Greys were what people now call ‘a thing.’ The intelligence forces had allowed them to build bases on the Moon where the Greys tortured their human victims.
The good news is that the AI aliens have sent them packing, but are they really here to help us? Or do they have equally nefarious plans for our future? The fact that they are rapidly constructing huge structures in selected parts of the world is not a good sign.
This is a thoughtful exploration of the implications of alien contact throughout all sectors of human cultures and societies, but I did find parts of it slow going. Perhaps I’m too nostalgic for tentacled blobs brainlessly blasting away at our national landmarks! -- Nigel Watson