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Daniel Dennett called natural selection Darwin's Dangerous Idea. He describes it as a 'universal acid', eroding the fabric of traditional habits. Dennett recognizes how violent those threatened by new ideas can become. Robert Sawyer has taken that thesis to a new, wonderfully conceived, level in this book. Those reviewers grizzling about this story recapitulating the O.J. Simpson trial must have skipped over the hard parts. Illegal Alien is a much deeper presentation of the workings of reactionary minds. We've all seen how vicious fanatic religious "leaders" can be when orthodoxy is challenged. Sawyer has extended that concept to a cosmic scale. And he's done a superb job of it.
While the bulk of this book is an excellent summary of a modern criminal trial, Sawyer's real success is the building of the alien personalities. Unable to lie, they are adept at evasion and equivocation when they deem it necessary. The aliens are not the uniform society usually found in speculative fiction. Instead, they turn out to be as divided as ourselves. That the division is based on the discovery of evolution of their species is classic Sawyer. He's to be congratulated on his deft handling of an alien civilization undergoing the same stress as our own in dealing with Darwin's Dangerous Idea.
Sawyer isn't just the best Canadian speculative fiction writer. He is at the top of the genre. Unlike so many of his fellows, the 'speculative' side of his writing is minimal. We may have to stretch our minds in reading him, but not because his ideas are too bizarre or his science base faulty. Sawyer's science in this book is rock solid. The exchange over evolution's producing the eye was a prime example of his research abilities. Richard Dawkins [Climbing Mount Improbable] must be proud of his 'colonial' advocate. Sawyer merges science and fiction with sublime finesse. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 24 February 2004
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Robert J Sawyer has a way of saying what if to the most extrordindary ideas and then making you believe that it is plausible. The book is gripping from page one and as with all the best court room dramas twists and turns and keeps you guessing right up to the end.
Read this book.
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