Saturday, 26 January 2019

Our Child of the Stars - Stephen Cox

Tricky one to review, this, initially, without giving too much away. To do so would spoil the impact of reading about the amazing event that Molly and Gene Myers are dealing with. However I did wonder how other reviewers had dealt with this conundrum but I found that few had resisted the temptation to divulge the fact that the titular child was in fact an ‘alien’ child. And from there mentions of ET, Spielberg and Close Encounters follow which does give a very good flavour of the book. I was also reminded of  Guillermo del Toro's beautiful film,The Shape of Water. So I’m going along with that and I apologise profusely if these are seen as spoilers. 

An alternative title could have been ‘The Pilot’s Child’  but I’m not going to be drawn down the spoiler path again so I’m not saying why!  You just might want to read the book to find out why!

If I have anything negative to say, I’ll say it now and get it out of the way and it is that the book seemed overlong to me. The point of the book was being made throughout the narrative and readers will have drawn many conclusions before the end of the book. In essence they would have arrived there before the book did! But I’m ahead of myself. However I have nothing else negative to say. Science fiction, primarily, a fantasy, if you want a genre. But behind the story lies the desire for some realistic hope for our beleaguered planet. 

Set in 60’s, Cold War America, the threats and conspiracies of that era creep insidiously though the pages of the book although the beginning is innocent and storybook like. Molly Myers is making a Halloween costume for her young son Cory. And as the story line is developed we learn of the fractures that were appearing in the Myers’ relationship before Cory graced their lives. Gene, a Librarian and musician, Molly a nurse, both living their lives as best they can until an event occurs that changes everything forever.  

The narrative is detailed, with moments of pure tension and excitement urging the reader to turn the page. Other moments require a more speculative and contemplative response as the true intent behind the book takes shape. Our loyalties towards Molly, Gene and of course Cory are never allowed to waver. That is most important for it allows us, as readers, to not only be part of the unfolding of the story but to remain stalwarts in the defence wall required against the aggressors who seek to destroy. There are subtle implications that require further thought but can be missed in the excitement of the actions. I saw an implicit suggestion of more than one species of ‘alien’ on earth. 

It could be argued that you need suspension of belief and much imagination to enjoy this story to its utmost but equally there are belief systems that would read it all as tacit. I find that a strength because it renders the book accessible to a wide audience. I might even go as far as to say it it runs the gamut of YA fiction through to OA (Old Adult) fiction! However the complexities of relationships push it further towards the OA market. But the character of Cory is multi layered and perhaps that is where I saw the appeal to a younger audience. However his wisdom transcends any age barriers. Gene and Molly too are accessible characters and the villains are truly hissable - ‘nasty Liar-Man’ to quote Cory sounding a little like Andy Serkis’s Gollum.

It’s a captivating tale; enjoy it as a story or better still, plunder its deeper depths and see it as a manifesto for our times? What am I talking about? Read it and see.

My thanks to Quercus Books where I procured a proof copy at their wonderful WOMB event last October. 

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