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3.7 out of 5 stars
Illegal Alien
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2010
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2010
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
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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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2010
A little dated now,this book came out in the late 1990's and seems to have come out of a "what if?" extension of the OJ Simpson trials. That's not all bad and there is a fair amount of detailed Grisham-type court room procedural here. The actual case seems fairly straightforward and really doesn't seem much of a mystery and sort of plods along in the middle third. However, the final story arc does come up with a satisfying half-twist, once Sawyer decides to put some science into this fiction. The aliens are suitably alien, the main human characters are nice, brainy folk and all in all a good, not great, novel.
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on October 29, 2003
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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on July 30, 2002
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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on July 25, 2002
With this book, bought while waiting in an airport, expecting nothing, I discovered a man that at once became one of my favorite authors. Sawyer is so creative, se sensible, so well informed and so human, he brings SF at a level that I must admit, as a trekkie, even Star Trek never reached. The evasion is absolute, the likeliness is as real as can be. Logic and emotions meet peacefully.
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on November 13, 2001
If you're reading this review, you probably like science-fiction. But do you like mystery and court room drama too? Then you will very much enjoy "Illegal Alien." Sawyer takes a science-fiction concept and mingles it with a courtroom case. This Canadian author has done his research on the US Justice system. I felt that I was reading the transcripts from any one of the thousands of US court cases that occurs every day. The book holds your interest and twists just enough at the end to satisfy your desire for a good whodunnit. Highly recomemnded for both sci-fi and mystery fans.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is likely the Sawyer book that I enjoyed the least. Now, by that, I don't mean I didn't like it. In fact, it had some of the best written aliens to come from his pen, and had great human characters that I found well characterized and plausible.
The concept is fairly simple: Aliens land on earth, they tour around, become celebrities, and then someone who had close contact with the aliens is found murdered, and prime suspect number one is one of the aliens. Hence, a trial.
The notion of putting aliens on trial was very good, and the idea was kept rather sound. The science of the alien physiology was very well crafted into the story (especially the concept of using alien DNA typing in the trial).
Then, enter OJ Simpson. No, not as a character, obviously, but as reference after reference. This book got bogged down in the OJ references, which, given when the book was written, would have been fine, but reading it now made it clunky and a little bit out-of-date. Making a contemporary reference or two is usually fair play, but the reliance on OJ metaphors was just overdone, and this book will likely suffer more from it as time goes by.
Still, in and of itself, there is a good plot here - not just for those of you interested in the legalities, but of alien cultures and physiologies - not to mention a good ol' fashioned murder mystery! The twist at the end is another Sawyer great, and as long as you can get past the OJ stuff, it's worth your while.
'Nathan
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on March 22, 2001
This book was ok but I don't think it had enough action in it but the courtroom sequences were very detailed about the evidence they found and that was the only part I liked about the judicial part of the book.
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