This epic sci-fi novel traces aliens’ observations of mankind, generation after generation.
They observe a bloody battle in thirteenth-century China. They instruct a woman in pre-Nazi Europe to build a spaceship. They come as creatures to a Turkish writer to explain their reasons for watching over humankind. And they are always watching. The “they” of J. T. Alblood’s The Consciousness Is an Alien is extraterrestrial life. A novel of epic scope, Albood’s narrative chronicles several centuries of human life and uses the idea of aliens watching historical moments to show mankind’s struggles with love, pain, and conflict.
The Consciousness Is an Alien has two main strengths: its creative use of history and its episodic construction. There’s no doubt that Alblood is keen on history, and setting the key episodes in historical periods of note with the associated details is compelling. The plot visits Sigmund Freud in his Austrian hospital as well as the office of Heinrich Himmler as he executes an SS officer. Each historical fragment is connected with the characters coming into contact with or learning about the aliens in their midst.
Speculative works that meld fantasy and history often focus solely on both themes and ignore creating interesting characters, comedy, or tragedy. While the book focuses on so many historical periods, Alblood melds the historical and sci-fi elements of Consciousness Is an Alien together, creating interesting drama along the way. Wilhelm Reich, the young psychiatry student in Freud’s hospital, investigates and falls in love with Maria, a woman everyone believes to be mad but who claims to have made alien contact. Oktay, a Turkish devotee of Reich’s, examines the Qur’an, and in doing so, makes his own fantastic, otherworldly discoveries. Alblood’s gift for imagination is clear throughout this work.
Despite the evident creativity, there are instances of less-than-stellar prose within the text. This includes the old-fashioned romance passages, such as Reich’s night of love with Maria: “As the night welcomed the day, our bodies united, and we became one and we felt the pleasure of being unaware of what belonged to whom.” Some overwrought passages like “the creature crept down toward the floor in a manner that mocked all the rules of nature and physics” also stick out as forced and detract from the pleasure of the otherwise easy-flowing story line.
While long and occasionally unbelievable, The Consciousness Is an Alien is unique and fuses many elements together. It would be hard to find a more original work than this.
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