Mark. L. Marinaccio’s science fiction thriller HUMANS, GODS, AND HYBRIDS puts a thought-provoking spin on the first contact trope with human-alien hybrids, genetic manipulation, and an exciting twist with terrifying implications. The Travelers are an alien race nearly identical in appearance to humans. After they reach Earth’s orbit and make contact, the Travelers’ leader, Ringbak Arr, reveals that they have discovered the Travelers are actually genetic relatives of humans, the offspring of humans who were abducted by an alien species, impregnated and wiped of their memories, then returned to Earth. The emotional upheaval of this news has existential ramifications that stress humans and Travelers alike.
The book is separated into three parts. The first part alternates between the perspectives of Tendra and Ringbak Arr’s son, Kellan, two Travelers in love who plan to go down to Earth and build a life for themselves, but when they reach Earth, the immigration department separates them. From there, they work to find each other, learning about the prejudices and violence Travelers face on Earth. The second part follows immigration agent Kate Pierce who is tasked with uniting Traveler children with their “genetic relations” on Earth. After a terrorist attack, Kate learns of a vast conspiracy involving the kidnapping of Traveler children and of another secret that makes her personally invested in taking the conspiracy down. The third and final part of the book begins with geneticist Lewis Marone’s induction into a mysterious organization’s plan to investigate Ringbak Arr. The overlong second chapter in part three alternates between Marone, Kate, Tendra, and Kellen’s perspectives to trace the culmination of events and the explosive climax of the story. While the story arc wraps up with breathtaking excitement, the cliffhanger ending leaves the conclusion ultimately feeling unsatisfactory.
Each of the characters has a powerful motivator that drives the story forward and defines their personality and their interactions with others. Tendra, for instance, loved taking care of the young Traveler children aboard the mothership and always wanted children of her own, which, when she is separated from Kellan, pushes her toward a Traveler terrorist organization aimed at protecting Traveler children from the American government. Similarly, Kate’s infertility makes her empathetic to the plight of Traveler children and their yearning families. The story moves at a fast pace as Tendra, Kate, and Kellan navigate the violent world of alien-human relations. Their emotional highs and lows to build sympathy and propel the plot forward through anti-Traveler terrorism, bittersweet reunions, and unexpected turns with frightening consequences. As the scope of the story widens over the course of the book–from Tendra and Kellan’s intimate tale to the grand kidnapping conspiracy with worldwide reach–Marinaccio’s writing engages by focusing on action and dialogue to build a full image of this immersive world changed by alien contact. The human existential crises and cultural shifts toward fear of the other feel real and inseparable from the characters who populate this irrevocably altered Earth.
HUMANS, GODS, AND HYBRIDS contemplates the whereabouts of alien abduction offspring and the issues of xenophobia and genetic engineering in the tidy package of an exciting, explosively paced thriller that puts a thought-provoking spin on the first contact trope.
~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader