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King combines ingredients from Star Trek, Star Wars, and old Saturday morning movie serials to create a science fiction casserole that will delight listeners/readers. He borrows the template of British command structure which was so obvious in Star Trek. He also spices his scenes with that "Band of Brothers" ethos that life aboard the Enterprise had. To that base he adds a cast of intergalactic life forms, all sentient, reminiscent of Star Wars. The diversity of characters is well developed, maintained, and made believable King's choice of Somerset Hamilton as narrator. Finally, the author punctuates the rhythm of his tale with one cliff-hanging event after another as was a main stay of Saturday movie action serials. All-in-all, Earth vs. Aliens is great dish for those whose tastes run to space based science fiction filled with action.
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This is a very fast paced space adventure with humans battling it out with more than one alien race. Jack Munroe doesn’t start off as the captain of the Uhuru (thanks for that nod to Star Trek) but things go wrong early on for the original captain, Monique d’Auberge. The Polish engineer, Max Piakowski, becomes Jack’s wingman as they quickly assess these new predator aliens and come up with a game plan.
In many ways, this story felt like a really long episode of Star Trek meets Battlestar Galactica meets Futurama. Jack often acts like Captain Kirk in Star Trek but the aliens can be pretty vicious like the Cylons in Battlestar Galacitica. Meanwhile, there are some silly shenanigans and stubborn idiocy by bureaucrats as I would expect in Futurama.
Most of the time I liked the quick nature of the story but sometimes I did get fatigued and wanted a moment to reflect on things or clarify the current score. Also there are a ton of characters in this story. Honestly, I lost track of nearly everyone. I believe there’s no less than 3 alien species introduced and yet I had trouble keeping the individual alien characters separate as well. I do recall Destanu, the first alien they communicate with, and he’s of the Rizen aliens.
The author did do a great job of having both men and women play important roles, even if they messed up. The characters, in general, were flawed and very human. They weren’t all heroes and some made big mistakes. The crew starts off small – only 6. Jack, Monique, Max, Gail (pilot), Hercule (comet expert), and Hortense (biologist). Plenty of other characters are drawn in along the way.
Early on, a chunk of the crew accurately assess the first aliens as predators by simply taking note of their physiology – claws, muscles, teeth, aggressive stances, etc. Initially, I really liked that Jack and his posse acknowledged that they had not stumbled into altruistic morally advanced aliens, but rather predators who were seeking to expand their territory. However, this then becomes the backbone of the story, and in a rather simplified manner. After all, us humans are apex predators and yet we can make alliances and seek something more than territory and resources. So over all, I would have liked more depth and to have the predator aspect toned down.
It’s a fun listen with plenty of action and interesting characters. If you’re looking for a simple humans versus aliens story, then this would be a fun choice.
The Narration: In many ways, Somerset Hamilton did a good job at narrating this book. His character voices were all distinct and his female voices, for the most part, were believable. There were no technical issues with the recording. However, Hamilton does such a realistic job with the various accents that I often found myself trying to figure out what the character just said in that thick (Belgian, Russian, Polish, etc.) accent instead of paying attention to the tale. I would have liked this better if the accents were toned down a bit.