The Alien Years

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 5, 1999

The Alien Years by Robert Silverberg

Six people attended the discussion of The Alien Years. This is a near future science fiction novel in which aliens invade and conquer the earth. The aliens remain offstage, and the story concentrates on the people living on Earth during the alien occupation. We encounter people forced into alien service, people seeking to serve the aliens, and people trying to overthrow the aliens. A large portion of the book follows members of a family in California that is active in the resistance throughout several generations.

We felt that this book had an intriguing premise, and it was developed well. We liked reading about truly alien extraterrestrial beings that were omnipotent and impossible for humans to understand. The aliens did strange things such as disassembling Stonehenge and reassembling it in a new pattern, and there was no attempt made to explain their actions. All of the characters in the book who tried to understand the aliens failed completely. The aliens were so inscrutable that they were almost like forces of nature. Several people commented that this book read a lot more like Niven and Pournelle’s disaster novel Lucifer’s Hammer than their classical alien invasion novel Footfall. Silverberg’s prose was polished and showed great mastery of expression, allowing the action to flow swiftly and smoothly.

The only complaint voiced about the book was that it didn’t show quite the level of imagination and invention of Silverberg’s great novels of the 70s. The books written by Silverberg at his peak, including Dying Inside and Hawksbill Station, were so good that a merely excellent book seems a little bit of a letdown.

Overall we found The Alien Years to be an engaging new take on the alien invasion story. We were fascinated by the situation, cared about the characters, and found the book hard to put down.

— A. T. Campbell, III