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5.0 out of 5 stars Darwin's Dangerous Idea strikes again!
Daniel Dennett called evolution 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...
Published on Jan. 21 2001 by Stephen A. Haines

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3.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment: OJ Trial Revisited
While mostly entertaining, I found this book rather contrived. I didn't enjoy the original OJ trial, and didn't enjoy the rehashing of it in "Illegal Alien" -- complete with a cameo from prosecutor Marcia Clark. Also, the writing style seemed somewhat immature, for lack of a better description. (There was an odd overuse of the name "Stephen J...
Published on April 5 1998 by A Doctor in Ann Arbor


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5.0 out of 5 stars Darwin's Dangerous Idea strikes again!, Jan. 21 2001
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illegal Alien (Hardcover)
Daniel Dennett called evolution 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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment: OJ Trial Revisited, April 5 1998
This review is from: Illegal Alien (Hardcover)
While mostly entertaining, I found this book rather contrived. I didn't enjoy the original OJ trial, and didn't enjoy the rehashing of it in "Illegal Alien" -- complete with a cameo from prosecutor Marcia Clark. Also, the writing style seemed somewhat immature, for lack of a better description. (There was an odd overuse of the name "Stephen J. Gould," for example.)
I found the SF side of the book disappointing as well. The explanation of Tosok evolution is, scientifically, improbably at best. As this forms the basis for the entire story (is the reason the Tosoks came to Earth), I found the book to have a very low "believability factor."
These criticisms aside, I read the book quickly, and enjoyed it overall. Sawyer had some interesting ideas, especially the blending of genres, and I would be interested to read another crossover book like this one. (Without any reference--explicit or otherwise--to the OJ Simpson trial, please!) If you're thinking about buying this book, wait for the paperback edition.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Adept genre-mixing, but not as good as it could have been, Dec 13 1997
By 
R. B. Bernstein "R. B. Bernstein, Distinguish... (Brooklyn, New York USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illegal Alien (Hardcover)
Robert J. Sawyer has written some of the best and most imaginative science-fiction novels of recent years, so I read ILLEGAL ALIEN almost as soon as I found out about it. Sawyer adeptly mixes genres -- in particular, the first-contact subgenre of science-fiction and the trial subgenre of murder mystery -- and his wry and sardonic comments about the O.J. Simpson case and the problems of conducting and reporting celebrity trials are some of the best things in this book. The whole, however, turned out to be less than the sum of its parts. Without giving away key plot secrets, my major complaint was that we learned almost nothing of the aliens' ideas about law or their culture's legal institutions, which I had expected to hear about in a novel in which an alien is tried for murdering a human being. Also, there is a big contradiction between the book's early assertion that the aliens do not share humans' concepts of "good" and "bad" or "right" and "wrong" and some late but vital plot developments. In sum, even second-level Robert J. Sawyer is several cuts above the normal level of most science-fiction, but ILLEGAL ALIEN was not as good as it could have been. -- Richard B. Bernstein
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1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing SF Murder Mystery, Jan. 9 1999
By 
Ben Klausner (Redmond, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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Illegal Alien is a disappointing attempt at the difficult genre of science fiction/murder mystery. The plot begins when one of the first contact alien visitors is arrested on incredibly lame justification (i.e. he -along with 25 others- had opportunity). Next, Sawyer violates the first rule of a good murder mystery, and an essential requirement when mixing it with SF; the author _must_ supply the reader with all the information to solve the crime. But Sawyer pulls religious and cultural motivations out of thin air to explain things after the fact. Furthermore, the aliens are lame (media reviews of the book notwithstanding), and their anatomy is incredibly improbable (they can only bring one arm to bear, unless a item is over their heads.) Although the weapon used is one of Larry Niven's favorite tools, the calibre of this story doesn't even approach Niven's SF mystery stories. Sawyer's endless plugs for Canada get pretty old too. And finally, isn't an illeagle a sick bird?
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2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre at best, Oct. 29 2003
By A Customer
This book is social commentary thinly disguised as science-fiction/mystery. There's nothing wrong with that per se; combining sci-fi with social-political views goes back at least to H.G. Wells, to a lesser extent to Jules Verne, and for all I know even before that. There's a catch, though: the sci-fi story must be good enough to stand on its own, without the political trappings. Such was the case with "War of the Worlds", "The Time Machine", etc. Such is not the case with "Illegal Alien". The reader is subjected to a steady stream of the author's liberal political and social views, along with a wearying succession of pop culture references. In short, if you're a left-wing kind of person -- to the extent that you'll put up with a mediocre sci-fi yarn just to get your dose of liberal politics -- then this may be the book for you. All others, steer clear. And maybe re-acquaint yourself with a real writer like Wells.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quest for truth and justice, July 30 2002
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The characters were developed quite well. So well that I was saddened when one of the main ones died, so early in the story aswell. But, if it wasn't for his death, there would be no story. I saw light in the concept of treating alien lifeforms like humans by giving them a fair trial. But, why would any human give an alien a fair trial over a human death- especially if aliens landed on earth and the next day someone was mutilated and it was obvious that the technology used in the murder wasn't human. Perhaps instead of simply taking direct action, the alien was put on trial to avoid war and complete chaos? I always appreciate the theological debates. Of course, the underlying motive of the aliens was the search for meaning. Although, the actions of these beings seemed to demonstrate otherwise.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully creative aliens and brilliant cross-examinations, Feb. 20 1999
By A Customer
Sawyer always entertains with good ideas and solid science--both are certainly present in this quick-paced enjoyable novel--but what I most enjoyed was the cleverness of the court scenes and the manner in which they were used to reveal the alien's oddities as well as the larger aspects of the case. I loved defender Dale Rice and his cross-examinations are some of the most enjoyable scenes I've lately come across. Not to mention the smooth manner in which Sawyer uses his tactics to give insights into our legal system. I admit I would have liked a bit more of the hard science I expect from Sawyer, but the secrets of the Tosok star system did deliver hours of daydreams about planets being...well, read, enjoy and dream for yourself.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Alien OJ trial shows us human society's best and worst, Jan. 10 1998
This review is from: Illegal Alien (Hardcover)
Robert J. Sawyer has created some fascinating science fiction over the years and ILLEGAL ALIEN is some of his best writing to date. The science fiction aspects are overshadowed by courtroom procedures and random (but fun) pokes at the US judicial system -- and yet they are at the very core of the mystery being played out. One of the best aspects of Sawyer's books to date is using the "alien" to expose the human condition -- and show us how our society is as bizarre as any alien society could be. That is shown here in profound and sometimes humorous ways that can be read between the lines of the story. An enjoyable read, sometimes contradictory, yet still worthy of note. Recommended.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A little over done. Not very refreshing, Jan. 15 1999
By A Customer
I must say I was very disappointed in this book. I can't understand why all those supposed expert reviewers raved about it. What started off as a decent plot idea, putting an alien on trial, devolved into a poorly written and horribly contrived alien invasion story. Too bad. I would have liked to see a little more research and accuracy concerning California law and also some better developed characters and story line. Sometimes authors tend to lose focus when they start to preach. As a Canadian, Mr. Sawyer probably shouldn't be so critical of someone else's legal system. At least without being a little better informed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent mix of courtroom drama with science fiction, July 16 2000
By 
Robert James (Culver City, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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Take one part legal thriller, one part science fiction first contact with extraterrestrials, and one part murder mystery, and you've got Robert Sawyer's "Illegal Alien." Sawyer has developed a real talent for solid research with originality; his courtroom scenes and lawyers come across with every bit as much impact as John Gresham (whose novels all seem to come out of a xerox machine, more or less; fortunately, the original is still interesting). The alien Tosoks are unique as well. As always, Robert Sawyer puts it all together in a page-turning, clear prose style Isaac Asimov would have admired. A great read.
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Illegal Alien
Illegal Alien by Robert J. Sawyer (Mass Market Paperback - Dec 1 2009)
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