Contact by M. D. Neu (A New World, #1)
Contact by M. D. Neu is a contemplative take on an alien contact narrative. Showcasing a small slice of normal life right before everything goes to hell, lingering on the depressing reality that some things, some people, feel too broken to fix, irreplaceably missing.
This books is inter-office politics made interstellar, filled with small personal connections and petty grievances that make the aliens feel like humans, in a good way. But that's just the surface stuff. Fundamentally this is a book featuring beings in different stages of loss and grief while having to figure out how to continue living. The aliens are the last survivors of a dying world, hoping to find somewhere to land and try to live, having a chance to start over while hoping not to lose everything they had before. The main human character experiences an enormous loss, and his path to healing starts here but will undoubtedly continue in the next book. I wasn't expecting this pace, this willingness to wallow and linger in grief, in lost plans and shattered expectations. Beyond that, I wasn't expecting it to be done so well. The language is simple and clear, making it quick to read and easy to understand. It has a bluntness at points that makes me think some of the hardest and most awkward conversations were pulled from experience.
It’s the first part of what will hopefully be a much longer narrative. I enjoyed the book, but it definitely feels like the first half (or even first third) of something much grander. Not every writer wants a doorstopper, and that's fine, but I would want that here. Luckily, the author knows this, which is why it ends with "To be continued in Conviction". It bodes well when my main quibble is that I want more, as soon as I can have it.
This book requires a content warning for homophobia directed against the main character(s). It's handled well within the text, but please take care of yourselves. Due to current real-world events (in spring 2020), it also needs cws for lockdowns, panic buying, and terrorism.
CW for homophobia, terrorism, major character death.