Hello all, afraid I fell off the planet for a bit due to a combination of processing the news of the day, extra hours at work, and the inescapable feeling that I did not possess enough time to put words together adequately. Tonight isn’t really especially different, but I have to stay awake to do a couple loads of laundry and this seems like a good place to focus my attention. Anywho, on to a review!
Eleanor Lerman’s The Stargazer’s Embassy puts an intriguing tilt on the usual alien encounter narrative. Though here I must admit that apart from a couple Last Podcast on the Left episodes, the X-Files, and Nicole Cliffe’s tweeted account of reading Whitley Streiber’s Communion: A True Story at a perhaps(?) inappropriately young age, I don’t have a significant amount of experience therein. That having been said, rather than a narrative that casts believers against the skeptical norm, the aliens are an accepted fact.
Instead the narrative follows Julia Glazer, a young woman intensely focused on containing herself, controlling her reactions, and moving on predictable auto pilot, whether lifting a wine stain off a celebrity’s couch during work or having a conversation with a striking older man while waiting for a meteor shower to begin. We learn she began maintaining this guarded distance with the world growing up, to keep everyone from learning too much of the truth as to why her late mother was so often found wandering through fields at night.
Occasionally, aliens show up, usually dressed slightly outrageously since they don’t quite grasp the true reasons behind human norms. Julia immediately chases them away, ignoring their piteous moaning. Yet, due to her determination to prevent anyone from touching her, Julia is almost more alien than the extraterrestrials; referring to her work clothes as her “cleaning lady costume” and inhabiting a fairly isolated apartment in an otherwise commercial district. Still, one day she lets her guard down and, in spite of herself, is too interesting–with a strange tattoo and stories of crystal clear skies from her hometown in upstate New York–and too interested. And, well, the rest of the story follows from there–I’d hate to ruin anything.
I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s a compelling, absorbing read that provides a intriguing escape from the rush of the day-to-day. Julia’s closely-held secrets kept me curious and the language was quite lovely as well. I’ll probably reread this at some point, as there are certainly clues, details, and moments I missed the first time through. I suspect this is probably, like Ursula K. Le Guin, speculative fiction for those of us who don’t always love traditional science fiction tropes, and in many ways, it’s a story more concerned with Julia’s relationships to other earthlings than any of the little gray men.
I received a copy of this work from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.