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Showing 1-9 of 9 reviews(5 star). Show all reviews
on April 5, 2010
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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HALL OF FAMEon January 21, 2001
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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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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on July 16, 2000
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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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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on October 20, 2000
I saw on Robt. Sawyer's web site that a movie version of ILLEGAL ALIEN is in the works. I'm thrilled about this. The book is excellent: thoughtful, about series issues, but fun and very fast paced. Sawyer is a Canadian apparently, but he knows the U.S. judicial system inside and out. The part of civil-rights attorney Dale Rice was obviously written for James Earl Jones in the novel --- I wonder if they'll get him to play the role in the movie. Better than Grisham, and the equal of Asimov in his prime.
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on February 17, 1999
Sawyer gave a reading at our local library, and I was intrigued, so I bought the book. It's great! The kind of SF I used to enjoy, with social comment and real issues. I liked crafty lawyer Dale Rice much better than the attornies in recent Grisham works, and the aliens really are the best since Niven's Puppeteers (as one of the reviews on the book says). Great SF, and (from someone who reads a lot of mystery, too) great mystery, as well. Five stars.
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on September 10, 1999
Met Sawyer in Melbourne at the World Science Fiction Convention. Liked his wit on panels, so bought two of his books, and loved both. Illegal Alien is the best SF/legal book I've ever read. Sawyer understands the law (which is complex enough!) but also astrophysics, extraterrestrial biology, and (lo and behold!) human beings. First rate, and lots of fun. Also recommended (but much different): his Starplex.
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on November 16, 1999
I liked Sawyer's GOLDEN FLEECE a lot and I liked this one too. He seems to be a specialist at the sci-fi/mystery crossover, and does it better than anyone since {and maybe including} Asimov. Gripping read.
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