So, “Starry Messenger” paints itself as a story about a benevolent alien coming to save the world from the forces that have infiltrated it, that have set it on the path to self-annihilation. The world may appear to be this idyllic place on the surface, a near utopian, but it’s all just a smoke screen to distract from the fact that it’s far from perfect. Only a race of aliens, that are chosen by a supreme being to protect its favorite little fledgling planet—Earth—know the truth. They are sent to discover why humans haven’t progressed the way they should and haven’t joined the other enlightened races in the stars to live in true peace. This is where our main character Quentin comes in. He’s the one sent to find out what’s up with these earthlings, and in the process, discovers the true evil, and then falls in love. It’s an interesting twist on the whole aliens coming to Earth idea, but I personally found the characters to be a bit flat and the story ends rather abruptly.
This is a pretty short novella, so another one of those books that’s easy to read and knock out in a weekend, which is nice as we head into the summer reading months. The world building and the premise of what’s going on and the mission Quentin has is set up well and succinctly given the novella format, so I really appreciated that. And even with certain characters throwing out a bunch of names that you don’t really need, I wasn’t ever lost in terms of what the overall plot and conflict was. Plus, the twist with how Howard combines religion with his aliens was interesting and unique, regardless of if you believe the in the Creation Myths. It was a risk and I think it was one that was done well and found to be both interesting and could lead to thought-provoking book club discussions.
However, the dialogue and the characters themselves just kept me at such an arm’s length that I never felt invested in them. Things between Regina, her son, and Quentin escalate far too fast for my tastes. Quentin talks kind of like a robot, which fits his character, but is never called out or seen as odd by Regina. I didn’t really understand why Regina would be so drawn to Quentin so fast as there’s just not much about either of them that felt substantial enough for another character to be attracted to. The dialogue was kind of all over the place as well, and there were these big jumps from paragraph to paragraph sometimes in characters being in one location, and then in another, or jumping from one characters POV to another, that I could never feel immersed in the scene or get a firm sense of where I was—even though the author says we’re in the San Diego area. We also don’t really meet the person who is supposed to be the main antagonist. We see them for a few scenes, but that’s about it and we don’t see what they are doing that’s actually leading the world to the destruction the synopsis says is coming in 2020, so that sense of imminent danger was never present for me. Which, in turn, made me wonder why the Collective are all that worried to begin with. Then, around the 80% mark, things really start escalating, Regina and Quentin are getting closer and closer, Quentin is becoming aware of how the humans were lead down this evil path (even though you don’t really see many bad guys), and then Quentin is given a new order that would leave the world unprotected and he has to decide what to do… and that’s where it ends. We don’t know what he decides though it's implied he'll stick around, or what the evil alien race has in mind for the world. The end. I understand that it leaves things open for what will be an exciting sequel, but it personally left me pretty unsatisfied.
I did really enjoy the parallels between Quentin’s race and angels, the Degans with demons/the devil, and Yar as God. I enjoyed the twist that brought to the story and I thought Howard did a great job bringing the reader into the story pretty seamlessly. I just couldn’t get into the characters (the dialogue didn’t help this) and the tension I needed to help make the plot escalate and feel like something was accomplished outside of the relationship aspect was absent. I would have liked more closure toward the end, at least knowing what Quentin planned to do or what was coming for the humans would have been nice as well. Still, this is an interesting book especially for the discussions it could spark, so if you have a free weekend and enjoy religious debates, you may want to pick this book up! But for me, I was left wanting to feel something, so it’s a 2.5 star read for me, but the author definitely has promise! And thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for an honest review.
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!