Catalyst: A Novel Of Alien Contact Paperback – Sep 15 2006
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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.
*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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.