Dr. Evelyn (Eve) Slater is a newly-minted astronaut as The Visitor: First Contact Hard Science Fiction opens. She’s from Tenerife in the Canary Islands, thirty-three years old, and holds a doctorate in psychology and a masters in mathematics. Once she arrives at the International Space Station, she will move to a spaceship that’s been specially designed to locate and either salvage or destroy space junk in low orbit around the Earth. And that assignment makes her and her Russian pilot, cosmonaut Yuri Bulgakov, co-discoverers of the first alien spaceship ever encountered by the human race.
The craft, a metal cylinder about four meters (thirteen feet) long, with a long, pointed snout, has been badly damaged by a meteor strike. Damaged, but not destroyed. As Evelyn’s fellow astronauts investigate the craft, they discover that it holds a wealth of data that’s eventually readable by hackers. They also learn that the builders of the craft employed a fuel that would dramatically improve the efficiency of human spaceships, and they’ve managed to polarize electricity in a way that permits dramatic new breakthroughs in electronics. And there are more and much greater surprises in store.
The Visitor: First Contact Hard Science Fiction by Tony Harmsworth (2019) 399 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
A suspenseful hard science fiction tale about what happens after First Contact
The Visitor is, indeed, First Contact hard science fiction, as its subtitle so unsubtly promises. Author Tony Harmsworth does a good job of conveying the reality of an astronaut’s experience getting to and from Earth orbit and living there for an extended period. As the story unfolds, moving from the realm of science into the world of politics and diplomacy, he becomes preachy. His writing style is workmanlike but unexciting. But he’s done a good job of plotting. The tale is suspenseful, and it offers insights into what (unfortunately) is likely to be the reaction on Earth if we ever discover irrefutable evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
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