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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific courtroom drama, terrific science fiction
ILLEGAL ALIEN is one of Robert J. Sawyer's very best novels -- as you'd know if Amazon had carried over the reviews from the previous edition. Yes, this is a reprint of an older book, but it totally deserves to be back in print, and now it is in a very handsome edition from Penguin Canada. Margaret Cannon, the long-time crime-fiction reviewer for THE GLOBE AND MAIL...
Published on April 5 2010 by Kirstin L. Morrell

versus
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perry Mason meets Star Trek, April 21 2010
This review is from: Illegal Alien (Mass Market Paperback)
Perry Mason meets Star Trek in this first contact murder mystery.

When a damaged spaceship is discovered in Earth's atmosphere, we are introduced to an alien race apparently here in peace. With the help of American scientists, the Tosok work toward repairing their ship with the goal to return home. Everything goes amazingly well until the gruesome murder of a well known scientist. The likely suspect is one of the visitors and it is up to lawyer Dale Rice and science advisor Frank Nobilio to prove their innocence and defend their rights. Once uncovered, the truth changes everything.

Although this book reads very much like Sawyer's Terminal Experiment (a quick and easy read), it is safe to say that Illegal Alien definitely has more sci-fi to it and the sci-fi is well done. It is an interesting mix of mystery and science-fiction and the story is intriguing and not too terribly predictable.

The one thing that kept on bugging me was the names of some of the characters, alien names aside. Cletus Calhoun? Packwood Smathers? Come on.

I would highly recommend Illegal Alien to fans of mystery and/or science fiction. This book is a great summer read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific courtroom drama, terrific science fiction, April 5 2010
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This review is from: Illegal Alien (Mass Market Paperback)
ILLEGAL ALIEN is one of Robert J. Sawyer's very best novels -- as you'd know if Amazon had carried over the reviews from the previous edition. Yes, this is a reprint of an older book, but it totally deserves to be back in print, and now it is in a very handsome edition from Penguin Canada. Margaret Cannon, the long-time crime-fiction reviewer for THE GLOBE AND MAIL called this "the best Canadian mystery novel of the year" and it also won Japan's top science-fiction award, the Seiun, for best foreign novel of the year.

The book tells the story of the aftermath of the brutal murder of a popular PBS astronomy-show host, who had been touring the world in the company of a small group of aliens from Alpha Centauri. The "trial of the Centauri" that ensues is gripping to read about -- the courtroom scenes are the best-ever in SF, bar none, and, as Margaret Cannon said, put John Grisham to shame. And the aliens are worthy of the best of Larry Niven or Hal Clement or Robert L. Forward. The characters -- including wily civil-rights attorney Dale Rice and the US Presidential Science Advisor, Dr. Frank Nobilio, fight in front of the judge and behind the scenes to make sure that justice is done -- and Earth is kept safe.

This book can be enjoyed equally by mystery-fiction fans, by science-fiction fans, and by those who simply enjoy a gripping story with some fascinating philosophical questions behind it. Sawyer, who wrote the novel FLASHFORWARD, upon which the TV series is based, just scored his 13th Hugo Award nomination (and he previously won for HOMINIDS), and he's also a past winner of the Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, so he's uniquely qualified to blend the mystery and SF genres, and he does it exceedingly well here. The verdict is in: ILLEGAL ALIEN is a fabulous read.
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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
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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
(REAL NAME)   
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!, July 23 2010
By 
Paul Rider "Pete" (Toronto) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illegal Alien (Mass Market Paperback)
First, I am a big fan of Mr. Sawyer. His imagination is unfathomable. Though filed in Science Fiction this is a story of Justice and Law. A legal system while flawed when left to the conscience of a 12 person jury can arrive at a just and honourable decision.
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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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Illegal Alien
Illegal Alien by Robert J. Sawyer (Mass Market Paperback - Dec 1 2009)
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