This review and others are posted at Inspiring Insomnia.
I labeled Alienated as a science fiction novel, but that is really stretching the meaning of the genre. Yes, there are aliens in this book, but the science is very shallow. What is the point of featuring aliens in a story when they look, talk, and act just like humans? I have always had an intense interest in books and films featuring aliens, so this was a big disappointment.
In Alienated, Cara’s family signs up to be part of the first Earthling and L’eihr student exchange program. This is an idea that had some potential, but in execution, it didn’t make a lot of sense. Why would an advanced civilization send their snotty youths to Earth as their ambassadors, rather than a statesman-type? And by the time communications between two worlds advanced to the point that such a swap could occur, wouldn’t they have more than just a rudimentary understanding of each other? Over and over throughout the book, it’s pointed out how little the two beings know about each other.
Aelyx, the L’eihr sent to live with Cara’s family, is the hottest…”person”…she’s ever seen. I suppose this was necessary because once the inevitable romance kicks in, it might have been a bit of a struggle to picture Cara making out with an alien that looks like E.T. Aelyx, in fact, is SO human-like, and the alien angle is so forced, he might as well have been an exchange student from Europe. And just how exactly is an alien race indistinguishable from humans? Aelyx explains that L’eihr DNA and human DNA is “almost identical,” and the two races must have intermingled at some point in history. The explanation flies in the face of evolution, but that little matter is brushed aside. There is an oddly intense focus on food in Alienated, and I assume that’s done in an effort to highlight the fact that humans and aliens are, in fact, different, since this book has a hard time making that point. We get a lot of information on which human foods Aelyx can tolerate (hardly any) and which he cannot. There are many scenes of him grimacing or threatening to vomit over certain foods. For reasons unknown, this advanced civilization gave no thought to this very basic, very critical need for survival before sending him to Earth.
At one point, Cara asks Aelyx how many intelligent life forms his people had discovered in the universe so far. When he tells her they’ve found around a dozen, she is shocked, because this is BRAND NEW INFORMATION. Humans and L’eihrs have been in contact long enough to set up a student exchange program. How could this not already be information that is known world-wide? If members of an alien race ever make contact with Earth, one of the top ten questions would surely be: How many more of us are out there? It would certainly rank well ahead of: When should we kick off our student exchange problem?
The humans we meet in Alienated mostly fall into one of two categories – most of them are full of hatred and fear of the L’eihrs, and a few fangirl like One Direction fans. The humans form lynch mobs to oust, or maybe even kill, Aelyx, and he needs military presence to keep him safe. The L’eihrs, meanwhile, view humans with contempt and never pass up an opportunity to ridicule them. With so much hatred floating around, who thought it would be a great idea to throw these two groups together? Presumably the leaders of the two worlds are a bit more open-minded, but we never hear from them. Alienated wants to be a commentary on racism and bigotry. Here on Earth, however, bigoted humans can only do so much to attempt to segregate themselves from the people they hate. But if Earthlings and aliens despise each other and will attempt to murder each other when placed in close quarters, the solution is pretty simple – Stay on your own damn planets. Note: I’m making a joke here, and I’m not advocating segregation for humans. (Or aliens, for that matter.) But in this case, it’s made clear that L’eihr is much more scientifically advanced than we are, and I assume their military is, as well. Wouldn’t the leaders of Earth done some work to determine what the reaction to an alien’s presence would be? Since the majority are strongly and violently opposed, why not wait until they’re ready? Otherwise, Aelyx is at risk of getting killed, and Earth may find that L’eihr has aimed their laser blasters at Earth in revenge.
I know this is a lot of criticism, but the science fiction aspect of this book is so weak that I had to point it out. Readers who are more interested in a light romance may enjoy this more.