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Catalyst: A Novel of Alien Contact [Paperback]

Nina Kiriki Hoffman

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Book Description

Sept. 15 2006
This psychologically complex science-fiction novel focuses on a sensitive adolescent making the difficult transition from childhood into adolescent sexuality and adult society. A boy, fleeing a bullying classmate, inadvertently makes first contact with a race of aliens who live beneath the surface of his planet. Exploring such subjects as the dynamics of dysfunctional families and human society's greed-based political system, the book has eerie psychological undercurrents and tells an emotionally compelling and surprisingly sensual story. 

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Tachyon Publications; 1 edition (Sept. 15 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892391384
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892391384
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,237,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This weird novel of alien contact from Stoker-winner Hoffman (A Fistful of Sky) careens like a pinball among the bumpers of science fiction, young adult literature and softcore porn. Soon after just-barely-adolescent Kaslin and his family join the human colony on the planet Chuudoku, Kaslin falls into the clutches of an alien tribe. Kaslin's life has had little to recommend it—his father's a deadbeat, his mother's a workaholic and he's frequently beaten up, poisoned and mocked by Histly, the physically augmented daughter of one of the richest men on the planet—so he throws himself into living his dream of first contact. The aliens are endlessly curious about human bodies, leading Kaslin to bizarre erotic couplings first with his captors and then with Histly. Despite the smooth prose, this teen-oriented fable may strike many readers as fan fiction for a nonexistent canon. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* New to the planet Chuudoku, Kaslin is running from Histly, whom he couldn't keep his eyes off when he first saw her in his midteen edsection--he goes for the arrogant, athletic type, unfortunately--because her response to his interest has been to torment him with her augmentations (physical enhancements, such as fingertip injection needles, that you can have if you can pay). He ducks into a cave whose slippery floor sends him sliding underground. She follows, but before he finds her, he has learned words to harden, soften, and light the cave's rock, and he has freed some three-eyed creatures from the cavern walls. The creatures strip him, depilate him (it's a thrill), and turn his skin translucent white. They don't go that far with Histly, instead imprisoning her in the cave-stuff, which, it turns out, is also edible and comes in many delectable flavors, provided it's Kaslin eating it, or, later on, passing it to Histly via liplock. First contact with aliens has been made, with implications that are barely hinted at before the last page. Hoffman is both a successful YA novelist and an adult sf novelist who prefers teenage protagonists. Kaslin--and Histly, for that matter--are vibrant creations, their psychology utterly credible for smart adolescents. That the book ends with everything but Kaslin and Histly's relationship up in the air may indicate merely that Hoffman knew when she had achieved perfection. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected. Provocative. A page turner. Sept. 20 2006
By Rosa Lina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was not expecting this dark science fiction novel from the extraordinary fantasist Nina Kiriki Hoffman, but once I started this disquieting coming-of-age story, I could not stop reading to see what would happen next. This is a story of alienation and what it means to be a human and/or a monster, and how easily the roles change, depending on perspective. A fascinating exploration of alien contact.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How strange... Dec 6 2008
By Elizabeth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am normally intensely fond of all of Nina Kiriki Hoffman's writing. I think her character development is phenomenal, her language is lyrical, and her ability to find magic in the ordinary delightful. This book, however, mystified me. It was a strange book, with some interesting concepts, and it held my attention, but I didn't particularly care about or like the characters. Furthermore, although I was moderately interested in what was going on by the time the book ended, the book just stopped. It felt like it ended in the middle of a sentence (although it didn't.) I would heavily recommend all of NKH's other fiction, but this book left something to be desired.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new direction from a truly unique writer Jan. 12 2007
By Terrell T. Gibbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A cover blurb suggests that Nina Kiriki Hoffman is "this generation's Ray Bradbury." That seems almost entirely wrong, but it is hard to think who would be a more valid comparison. Peter S Beagle, perhaps. Hoffman is more familiar from her modern fantasies regarding the interlocking lives of people touched by magic of one form or another. But in this short novel, she is doing something very different, a science fiction novel of first contact. And in the process, she has created a some genuinely unique aliens and alien biology.

As in her fantasies, Hoffman always surprises. Dramatic tension rarely resolves in a way that is familiar or expected. Situations that appear to be frightening often turn out to be benign, enemies find surprising common ground (as with the protagonist and the bully who is chasing him as the story opens). Conversations and character development take odd and surprising turns.

In some respects, this seems to be a young adult novel. The protagonist starts out beleaguered, but by the end seems on his way to developing his confidence and autonomy. There are some brief scenes involving sex, including a sexualized encounter with the aliens that is handled in a matter-of-fact manner that seems not at all salacious. I am hopeful that as she has in her fantasies, Hoffman will write more stories that interlock with this one. There is clearly room for sequels, as well as for further development of some of the incidental characters.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read Oct. 26 2006
By Chrisrap - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent novel, best SciFi I've read in years. Grabs you and never lets go. Great characters, unique plot. First Nina novel I read, will read all the rest. Got into my head, changed my views, one of the best things a novel can do.
5.0 out of 5 stars A TRUE STORY May 25 2011
By HR - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It took me a long time to read this book... once I did, my immediate reaction was "where's the sequel?!!!"
The aliens, as she possibly intended, seemed a lot more benevolent than the humans. But that is the real experience of many people. This book is as much about power and class as it is about science fiction. Or rather, all good science fiction examines human concerns and this one does it remarkably well.
ARRAY(0xb4663b34)

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