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Book Review of "The Albatross: Contact" by Connor Mackay

The prologue of "The Albatross: Contact", by Connor Mackay, seizes the reader with graphic detail in this contemporary, contemplative sci-fi novel. The first word and initial paragraph engages the atmosphere and sets the personality of Will Reach. Reach exposes his gritty, hidden back-story in self-talk and through remembered ex-special forces experiences as he is indoctrinated into an alien world. An alcoholic drifting in society after being discharged from the military, Will Reach lives with untreated post-traumatic stress disorder. His distinctive character is memorable, absorbing, and is as believable as the sci-fi plot. Aliens have astonishingly appeared in the heavens above Earth. The extraterrestrial beings, called Lumenarians, arrived from another solar system and have come to recruit warriors to help defend their world in an interstellar war in exchange for upgrading earth technology.  The ever-shifting, chimeric-like plot draws Will into space.

Character-driven, the tightly structured plot is developed around Will, Sarah Li, and Arthur as they blast off on a mission into the unknown. Sarah Li, a scientist with a brilliant mind, tells her adventure in first person. Her encounters with imaginative futuristic technology and weapons sound convincingly plausible.

Mackay effectively mixes the traits of humans with those of aliens. “Arthur” is the earth name used by the alien commander of the Lumen spaceship, Albatross.  His distinctive personality suits his unusual physical body. Alien races are described as having personalities as unique and diverse as humans, but with higher intellect and technology. They all have “different fears, loves, humors, and rages.”  In addition to the imaginative physical characteristics of Lumenarians, there are the physiognomies of cyborg Jellians, Florii, and Glowers the only other race was the Yaahlians.

Divided into distinct parts, the plot blasts forward from Earth into space aboard the Albatross, as told in the voice of the three major characters who share personal versions of the storyline. Vivid imagery describes the training program and the scientific technology used by the warriors. The futuristic science scenes often read like listening to Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang, trying to explain his theories.

 A conflict with OnSpec terrorists from Earth and some mutinying crew lead the soldiers into the first of many terrifying battles. Arriving on the planet Lumen, Will and Sarah are sent with the army to try to rescue Lumenarians from another planet under brutal attack by the enemy, Forsaken.

This novel stretches the imagination by providing a human view of aliens. The plot creates tension as the characters are involved in violent conflict, chaos, and deadly incidents. Resolutions are not predictable but satisfactorily reach conclusion before the next vivid and gory encounter. Slipped in references to Mason indicate a sequel.

Profound, poetic language; “the scrapbook of memories flipped open again” to prophetic language, “Thirty thousand years ago the memory banks suffered some sort of catastrophic failure,” to “End the Shhbrtlap! End the Shhbrtlap!” an ancient banned language, intensify the plot.

Readers might predict futuristic technology from Mackay’s imagination, like developments from Maxwell Smart’s shoe phones, and Dick Tracy’s wrist radio to contemporary cell phones. References to technology developing from fiction are stated in “Space is Open for Business,” by Robert C. Jacobson, who cites prophetic creativity.

 After staying up nights with this epic book, the reader will be impatiently waiting for the next in the series, “The Albatross: Requiem.”


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