Fade Out, by Patrick Tilley

Fade Out, by Patrick Tilley book coverGenre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Bloomsbury Reader
Published: 2017
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Reviewer:  SJ Higbee

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I saw the funky cover and was hungry for some science fiction, so requested this one. It wasn’t until I featured it as a Tuesday Teaser, I realized it was a re-release of a book first published in 1977. So I was intrigued to know whether it would seem overly dated.

Patrick Tilley’s brilliant bestselling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence is a high-tension tour-de-force that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.

While I don’t like overly chatty blurbs that give away a quarter of the main plot points before you’ve opened the first page, this one seems on the terse side–however, it does give you a very clear idea of the genre and what to expect.

The first thing to say is that if you have a major problem with limited omniscient viewpoint, then this one isn’t for you. While there are a number of main characters, Tilley regularly slides out of their heads and into neutral storytelling mode. As it is a classic narrative mode for this genre, I didn’t have a major problem with it and Tilley certainly couldn’t have covered all the angles he wanted to if he’d chosen any other viewpoint option.

The next issue that struck me was how male and pale the cast were–no women or ethnic diversity within the higher government circles or the leading scientists brought in to examine what was going on. Given the book was apparently rewritten and updated, I think it’s a shame this aspect was neglected.

So, the story. The way it builds up is excellently handled and I love the consequences and cost involved in the alien intrusion. I was also gratified that answers didn’t fall into anyone’s lap. The alien technology and motives are a genuine puzzle and folks are left guessing for a long way through the book.

Other readers have mentioned how very America-centric the story is–but I do think that is probably a realistic take on the way things operate at the top in that government these days. What is intriguing is how that viewpoint genuinely hampers their ability to get to the truth of what is going on and the politicking and negotiating around the Russians is both funny and terrifying–as well as being spot on.

This tale is as much about our society and what we value as much as about the aliens. There is much to admire about this book and I thoroughly enjoyed most of it–however given the unhurried pace throughout most of it, I found the abrupt rush in the final pages rather jarring and wondered if this was the first in a series. It appears it isn’t.

That said, it is still an interesting read and recommended for science fiction fans who enjoy reading the likes of Clarke and Heinlein.

While I obtained an arc of Fade Out from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

SJ higbee

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