Genre: First Contact
Publisher: Hadrosaur Press
Reviewer: David L. Felts
Have you read this book?
Although this edition was released in 2015, Passing for Human was first published in 1977. This isn’t evident though, and the book is written in such a way that the absence of such modern development as cell phones and computers isn’t noticed, or detrimental. The cultural references are outdated though; you have to be a certain age to know who Emma Peel or Brenda Starr is.
Although ostensibly a first-contact tale, this one is told from the point of view of the aliens, those aliens being the Rymesians. The Rymesians have been charged with investigating Earth and humans (whom they refer to as “bushmen”). Their findings will be used by a consortium of alien governors to decide whether or not the human race should be allowed to exist or exterminated in order to save both the Earth and to protect other alien races.
The story is told from the point of view of one particular female alien anthropologist, Benaroya. Although the Rymesian original form is one most closely akin to a dolphin, they have technology that allows them to “grow” a human body (typically resembling some famous personage from pop culture or history) and then occupy that body with their consciousness as they go about interacting with and investigating our culture.
Complicating this is the presence of another alien, one Scaulzo, from a race called the Sajorians who is at odds with the consortium. The Sajorians are a race of charismatic psychopaths, and Scaulzo is the most charismatic of all. He’s out to take over and make the human race subservient.
The end result of all this is a humorous and insightful observation of human nature as our alien protagonist stumbles through the absurdity of being a human while at the same time fighting a pitched battle against a bad guy with the fate of the human race at stake.
Scott examines several serious social issues in a way that as enlightening as it is satirical and with an energy that borders on–and sometimes crosses over–mania. Capitalism and commercials, as well as our harsh treatment of the environment, make juicy targets for Scott’s scathing but funny observations. Her commentary on the human condition can sting, but the novel still manages to impart a hopeful feel.
Despite the requisite aliens and other science fiction trappings, Passing for Human is very “soft” as far as the genre goes. The science isn’t explained, it just is, which males sense considering is being used by aliens that are used to it. Nor does Scott dive very deeply into the characters or their motivations.
Passing for Human is a quick read. If you enjoy “social” science fiction, or satire, and have somewhat of a black view of the way things are going for the human race in general, this one will be right down your galactic arm.Share