The first novel in Connor Mackay’s science fiction series THE ALBATROSS: CONTACT follows the perspectives of three major players in a war between alien species. The Lumenarians, from the planet Lumen, send spaceships to Earth, but instead of attacking, as veteran Will Reach expects them to, they ask the humans for help in the war they’ve been fighting for decades upon decades with the brutal species they call the Forsaken, in exchange for healing Earth from climate change. With a tragic past and nothing left to lose, Will joins the aliens’ experimental army, alongside his friend and bartender, Frank, who fought alongside him in Afghanistan. Aboard the Lumenarians’ ship, the Albatross, Will meets Sarah, who scored among the highest on the human’s intelligence test. Over the course of the book, Sarah and Will fall in love, while they train using the Lumenarians’ intense technology and prepare for battles with the Forsaken that have consequences that may reverberate throughout the universe.
The book is separated into four parts: the first is narrated by Will; the second by Sarah; the third by the Lumenarian commander of the Albatross, Arthur; and the fourth alternates chapters between the three characters. Part two starts where part one leaves off and carries the book through several months. While it is jarring at first to hear about the events in Sarah’s words rather than Will’s, she quickly endears herself to readers. She and Will are very different people: Will is an alcoholic who hides behind humor and a tough guy persona, while Sarah is observant, intelligent, and does not hesitate to share her feelings with other people. Will’s hard exterior and joking defense mechanisms inch into stereotype territory, as he hides his history of loss, uses his charisma and disregard for the rules to succeed, and drowns his secret sorrows in alcohol. In latter chapters of the book, he and the other characters express how much he has changed during the year-long training and in his relationship with Sara, but the change is difficult to see in his still-sarcastic dialogue. He has much more room to grow and change in the book’s upcoming sequels. The third narrator, Arthur, also has a tragic backstory that informs his actions and invites empathy for an alien character that shows a depth and breadth of emotion.
The Lumenarians’ technology is fascinating and unique. A painful insertion of tech into the human brain leads to increased strength and stamina. Weapons integrate into the neurological system and can be controlled by the mind. An update includes immediate translation of thousands of alien and human languages, which aid the characters, alien and human alike, in communicating with each other. The not-quite-faster-than-light travel is explained in a way that makes sense for the plot and the character describing it. Training and battle scenes that use the technology pulse with suspense, and the spectacular action sequences when the danger is high amp up suspense while showcasing Will and Sarah’s new capabilities and skills.
Two cases of deception on Arthur’s part—he makes the characters, and therefore the reader, believe things that are not true, even if temporarily—diminish the audience’s trust in the book’s plot. These two plot twists do, however, make Will, Sarah, and the other humans more invested in each other and in the responsibilities they signed up for when joining the Lumenarians. There are no deceptions, plot twists, or red herrings just for their own sake—each event in the story works to build character and relationships and expands the book’s world beyond its pages.
THE ALBATROSS: CONTACT by Connor Mackay balances the large scope of worldbuilding with small details of character to create a science fiction epic that is immersive and engaging.
~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader