Rated Reads

First Contact: Or, It’s Later Than You Think

by Evan Mandery

Rated: Mild

It’s business as usual throughout the universe: a PTA is mobilizing to complain about a teacher who is off-curriculum, and there is great consternation because there are no refreshments; a young law student and a lowly assistant to the president are falling in love over sub sandwiches; a con man is making money off of safe drivers by suing them for rear-ending him when he stops his car in front of them on the highway. Some of these things are happening on a planet called Earth; some are in a place called Rigel-Rigel; most likely, identical situations are happening elsewhere, too.

And scientists on Rigel-Rigel have determined that Earthlings are endangering their planet, thus their future, so it has been decided that contact must be made to warn said Earth dwellers. The Rigel-Rigelian ambassador’s wacky sense of humor leads him to dress as a rabbi for his first introduction — via video sent attached to an e-mail, naturally — so the president of the United States is sure the aliens must be Jewish. In truth, the ambassador is agnostic and loves Woody Allen movies, and his jokes fall completely flat when he does meet in person with an uncomprehending U.S. president.

Life goes on. The president’s simple-mindedness leads to some unfortunate decisions that have an interesting impact on the United States. Meanwhile, Bundt cakes and punch make appearances at PTA and state meetings, and raccoons manage to infiltrate houses all across the universe.

First Contact is a hilarious novel that revels in satire and absurdity yet is light on its feet and at heart. It brings to mind Douglas Adams’ wacky romps through the universe. It’s particularly entertaining for those who can appreciate pop references to Sting and Monty Python mixed in with references to Marshall McLuhan, the Scopes trial, and physics. Pick it up for a good laugh before it gets any later.

Rated: Mild, for just a handful of uses of mild language and vulgarities. Sexual references are very minimal.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • First Contact: Or, It’s Later Than You Think
  • by Evan Mandery
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: