The title of this book, coupled with the vaguely angelic looking, tribal painted model would have you think this book is some introspective art piece, I mean, the title is essentially a messenger’s speech/monologue, which, it actually is. The monologue I mean, not the art piece. Messenger, the 16 year old main character, is telling the story of what happened to him, his family’s tequila farm, and his entire family plus his love interest, to a therapist of sorts while he recovers in a hospital. The entire book, with very few exceptions, is told through this dialogue, recounting the recent past. Basically, on one rather normal day, Messenger’s farm is destroyed by three alien ships as they land and then begin hunting for something on the property. What follows is the main characters tale of how they ran, what they found, and how everything changed from that moment on.
Given this is a novella, a lot needs to be covered in a short amount of space. And while some things do get covered, a lot of questions are raised that get tabled until, presumably, the next book(s) in the series, all of which are meant to read like quick little serials that are easily digestible for a variety of readers. And the writing is solid, with only fantasy-like violence and a few instances of mature language, this book is appropriate for a wide age range of readers, especially if they enjoy alien encounter books with just a bit of science-fiction thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed the uniqueness of the setting and the nontraditional family dynamic between Messenger and his parents, as well as his siblings. The characters felt well rounded and, generally, like a fun bunch to hang out with. But my hang ups for this novella come in the things not answered, or accounted for, as well as Messenger himself.
Messenger never really read, or felt, like a 16 year-old boy to me. Instead, the narration read more like an adult Messenger recounting this horrifying experience of how his family had to race through the ice caves to get to another hidden craft to where they could then better equip themselves to do battle against these alien invaders. Just the things he says to his doctor, how he constantly seems to remind the reader that certain responses were appropriate for a 16 year-old, felt like it should be coming from a much older person while reminiscing. This was only compounded by the fact that everything Messenger is telling the reader is meant to be Messenger telling a doctor this story in real time. So the language just felt… off to me? It may have flowed better and kept me in the story more if it hadn’t been written in the extreme first person, but it’s also hard to say what affect that would have had on the story as a whole, either. Additionally, the reader is told about the aliens and what they do to the farm, but not necessarily why they are there, or to what purpose Messenger and his family are targeted, for it is made clear that they are targeted. After all, Messenger’s parents have prepared for this moment to some degree. But there were a lot of “why” questions left unanswered, or purposefully vague that it was hard for me to truly get what was going on, and to what end. I walked away with far more questions than answers, most of which I can’t share in order to avoid spoilers. Again, this only reemphasizes to me that this series is meant to feel like a serial of sorts in how it’s presented. Except the next book is supposed to be 10 years after the events of the first book? So perhaps I am wrong on that score.
Overall, the book had a really interesting premise, and I found the double meaning behind the title and some of the characters’ names to be rather clever. I also enjoyed the setting in which this book takes place, and the descriptions of the aliens and their craft are all really well done. But the narration and the unanswered questions made it hard for me to really get into this novella and to feel like the novella format was justified for the story that Herman has to tell, for he does have a very interesting story to share! I think if you like a more mature YA alien based science fiction book and you want to binge read a lot of short little novellas back-to-back, that not only will this book be a lot of fun for you, but the series as a whole as well. But for just the stand alone book, for me personally anyway, I just felt as if a bit too much was missing, which is why this is a 3.5 star for me. Now, the author did ask me to review his work, but I “bought” this on my own, but thanks to the author for introducing me to his fascinating world and his rich characters!
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