This novel has a little bit of everything: a touch of science fiction, some family-oriented characters, a tug at the heartstrings, and a setting (northeastern liberal United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s) consistent with the themes. Most readers will find the storyline easy to follow and the many characters easy to identify. Each of the characters has a role in the family, or the public library, or the research facility, or the government. The primary characters—mother, father, alien child (Cory), and two doctors (one “good,” and one who works with the FBI and has connections to NASA)—are more fully developed. Quaker readers may also note the author’s portrayal of military personnel as “win at all costs” versus the nonviolence stance of the mother, Molly. There are cameo appearances by Joan Baez, Walter Cronkite, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and Martin Luther King Jr.
Themes running through the entire story include the fragile sanctity of family and marriage and how a child’s innocence can inspire hope for future peace. The Vietnam War era’s fear of communism and Russia (mentioned at least 20 times), the favorite protest songs and activities of the main characters, and the debate over whether exploring outer space will attract unfriendly aliens are also recurring themes. Sometimes the thread of a theme is dropped between chapters, which are quite short. The theme then appears in a later chapter’s events, helping to develop the plot or characters and allowing concepts to be restated several times, such as the innocent goodness of children (as seen in the alien child, Cory) and the futility of aggression by people, nations, and worlds.
This novel, a science fiction work with alien invaders crashing into a pond outside of a rural, small university town in the Northeastern United States, is Stephen Cox’s first, which he says started as a short story some five years earlier. Although Cox, who is a Quaker, resides in London and the book was first published in Britain, he was born in the United States of British parents. I will forgive him for the earworms he gave this reader with the inclusion of such song titles as “Farewell Angelina,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” and “The Age of Aquarius” to authenticate the setting and tone of the book.
This story differs from earlier alien-focused works such as the 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial because the alien, Cory, not only is an innocent child but he’s embedded in and reacting to a traditional two-parent family of the 1960–70s Woodstock era. The story’s ending is also somewhat unexpected: evil is real, and not everyone lives happily ever after.