First Contact – Book 1: Upon This Rock – By David Marusek

How’s it going, Jared?

You’ve been very quiet lately. I hope the w’s (work & wife) aren’t monopolizing all your time. There are books I know you’ve read that I’m eager to hear about. In any case, this might be a book Julia might be interested in.

uponthisrockTitle: Upon This Rock
Author: David Marusek
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Adult
ROTS Setting: CU, Modern, Aliens
Synopsis: When a shooting star plunges through the atmosphere and touches down in the Alaska wilderness, only two earthlings are around to witness the event. But they see two utterly different things. What park ranger Jace Kuliak sees is a UFO and the arrival of a dangerous alien species from beyond the solar system. What Poppy Prophecy sees is the star called Wormwood, as recorded in Scripture, and the arrival of a an archangel of the Apocalypse.

The thing is — they’re both sorta right.
Recommendation: I definitely recommend this book.

A copy of this book was provided by the author for the purpose of obtaining a review.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this. The religious elements were the wild card and it could easily have gone downhill at any moment……..But it didn’t. This book is superbly written. Everything was so well balanced and laid out.

At no time did I feel attacked or demeaned for being a Christian. (I want to get that out quickly.)

The fascinating balance and contrasting perspectives between religious and secular views for the same event makes up the core of the story. Even at the end I still have trouble deciding if the events are divine or extraterrestrial in nature. I think it’s aliens, but it feels like it’s divine. My brain is both confused and delighted by this contradiction.

Poppy Prophecy, yes that’s his name, is probably the main character if I had to pick one. What was really great was that for the first half of the book I couldn’t tell if he was a “flawed good guy” or a “sneaky bad guy”. (I eventually settled at “flawed guy making excuses for the inexcusable”.) He was never treated poorly except when his own actions showed why he was given that treatment and never based solely on his religion. That might seem like a little thing, but it’s what made much of the controversial nature of the book easily digestible. As for his character, he’s very single minded. This keeps him focused but it also makes it difficult for him to change his mind especially when confronted with new information. In all, I both love and hate his character. I love the way it’s crafted and works, but I hate who he is as a person.

Jace Kuliak is the secular/average joe sort of character that provides a lot of context but doesn’t actually provide much as a character or to the bigger story. As such, he was a bit disappointing. He was mentioned by name in the book description, so I thought he’d have a bigger role. I do have a feeling that he’ll be a bigger player in the next book, so we’ll see.

Deuteronomy Prophecy is the second oldest daughter and fifth(?) oldest overall. She’s a very motherly type and a dutiful daughter too. Her growth is the most interesting and, again, I think she’ll be even more prominent in the next book.

Ginger is also a character worth watching. She’s gone through so much and it’s not even over. For me she provided a good “average” Christian perspective and occasionally the voice of reason. Without her, the latter part of the story would have been flimsy. She really grounded the story in reality and made it relate-able to the average sort of person.

When it came to plot it’s very well done. It’s a little bit not my preference as there isn’t much action or a more cerebral experience. However, I did enjoy it immensely. My one and only point of issue is that I don’t really feel compelled to read the next book. Again, it could just be the style and lack of action. I don’t feel unsatisfied with the experience but it’s hard for me to imagine the many routes the sequel could take.

Something I’d like to add is about the “sidebar” side stories/exposition. Basically they’re linked bits of addition content that can provide context without breakup up the flow of the book. I didn’t read them all but the couple I did read were a nice addition.

In summary, it’s a very well written book that is sensitive to it’s controversial content but doesn’t shy away from it. The plot is good, but lacks a strong hook for the sequel and the characters are extremely organic and real feeling. I would definitely recommend this book and I have every intention of reading more in the series.

Robert


Author Bio

David Marusek writes science fiction in a cabin in Fairbanks, Alaska. His work has appeared in Playboy, Nature, MIT Technology Review, Asimov’s, and other periodicals and anthologies and has been translated into ten languages. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “Marusek’s writing is ferociously smart, simultaneously horrific and funny, as he forces readers to stretch their imaginations and sympathies.” His two novels and clutch of short stories have earned him numerous award nominations and have won the Theodore Sturgeon and Endeavour awards. “. . . Marusek could be the one sci-fi writer in a million with the potential to make an increasingly indifferent audience care about the genre again . . .”—New York Times Book Review. “Marusek is one of the relatively few contemporary sf writers who seems deeply responsive to the contemporary world”—Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. His current novel project, Camp Tribulation, is a tale of love, faith, and alien invasion set in the Alaskan bush.

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First Contact – Book 1: Upon This Rock – By David Marusek

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