“Book Review: The Albatross Contact”
Reviewed by Chika Anene
An expertly written military sci-fi novel about humans teaming up with extraterrestrials to take down a dangerous enemy
The Albatross: Contact by Connor Mackay is the first book in the military sci-fi series The Albatross. It paints an advanced and vivid picture of a series of events that unfold after humans’ first contact with extraterrestrials (known as Lumenarians) from the planet Lumen.
They have come in search of human recruits for a highly dangerous space mission that involves waging an intergalactic war against a dangerous species of aliens, the Forsaken. The brilliant prose, as well as excellent descriptions of the characters, the technology, and the worlds, makes it a read that anyone interested in the genre will want to gobble up.
We open in the midst of Will Reach’s suffering after the loss of his wife and daughter; he is accustomed to numbing his grief through daily alcohol consumption and violent fights with strangers who have the courage to test his patience. The only person he has left on Earth is his close friend Frank, an ex-soldier who fought by his side during their military deployment in Afghanistan. Ever since returning from the war, life has not been the same, and there is an unmistakable pain that Will is not able to hide, even when he smiles.
When humans are urged to join forces with the Lumenarians to fight this evil enemy, and when Will’s friend announces to him that he has decided to sign up, Will — although reluctant at first — decides to tag along. After all, he has lost everything he holds dear to his heart, and he is not willing to lose yet another loved one.
Once they are all connected to Lumenarian biotech, there is something special about Will that makes him stand out from the rest of the recruits. He possesses an immense strength that no one can fully understand nor explain, not even Arthur, the alien commander of the Albatross who takes a special liking to him and even offers to become his private mentor. Arthur has known loss and devastation too, and he sees a version of himself in Will. A version of himself that was created after the first war with The Forsaken, where he is rumored to have been one of the only two survivors from the devastation.
In the middle of the Albatross recruitment process, the character Sarah Li, a beautiful Asian woman with almost no match for her intellect, is introduced. Her and her brother Mikey are orphans whose parents died when they were young. Like them, many of the volunteers at the recruitment facility come from backgrounds where they have lost something so dear to them that signing off their lives to join a war in space, with the possibility of never returning to Earth, seems more rewarding than damning.
After a terrorist attack carried out by a group who call themselves “OneSpec” (one species) claims the lives of one Lumenerian and a large number of human recruits, a bond is forged between Sarah, her brother Mikey, Will, his friend Frank, and two other humans, Megan and Miguel.
Author Connor Mackay takes careful steps to get the reader fully acquainted with the characters at the center of the story, but he also makes clear important themes of love, life, and friendship on board the Albatross. And as each of the characters’ abilities are tested and as the ship’s commander (Arthur) does his best to prepare them for the day they meet their common enemy, the reader is tossed through a funnel of twists and turns alongside them.
The imagery used to weave this story together is so vivid that it will likely make any reader feel like they are experiencing the world as though they are a character in the book. On the other hand, the integration of social issues such as racism, suicide, terrorist groups, riots, and immigration makes the story even more relatable to the real world.
The Albatross: Contact is a highly enjoyable read which aims to not leave any page unturned or any insatiable hunger for action unsatisfied. I found myself constantly wanting to know what would come next whenever I was away from it. It’s fascinating to see things from the perspective of the human recruits, as well as through the eyes of the Lumenarians. I also enjoyed reading about Arthur’s love for collecting books from earth.
In the end, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction but also to those who want to try reading something different from what they are used to. This one is sure to do something special for you just like it did for me.
Publisher: Friesen Press
Paperback: 486 pages
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