White Queen, by Gwyneth A. Jones

white-queen-by-gwyneth-a-jonesGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates
Published: 1993
Reviewer Rating: twohalfstars
Book Review by C. Douglas Baker

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Set in 2039-40 A.D., this novel of first contact creates an almost credible near future earth and avoids the cliche of vastly superior aliens swooping down to subjugate humanity and strip its resources. Instead, Jones’ aliens live among humans for awhile, cloaking their existence, until a strange emotional relationship between Johnny Guglioli, a UFO chaser, and Agnes/Clevel, an alien residing in Africa, leads to their discovery. Jones spends a lot of time creating our future world, doing a credible job on technological and ecological aspects, but the socio-political aspects are more alien, and unlikely, than the extraterrestrials. For example, the United States has been overthrown by socialists and are minor players in world politics. Equally unlikely is the lackadaisical response of the Earth’s population to the discovery of aliens and the central role played by politically marginal actors in dealing with them.

Johnny Guglioli, the most interesting character, is infected with a “petrovirus” that destroys the substance “blue clay”, which evidently has replaced silicon as the key data processing material. Being a former “eejay” or engineering journalist, his occupation is destroyed because he can no longer work with computers or similar machinery because his virus destroys the data processing capabilities of the “blue clay”. Having his livelihood ruined he chases UFOs as a hobby, leading to his encounter with Agnes/Clevel, an alien that reveals itself to him. Enter Braemer Wilson, a journalist ostensibly searching for a story who seems to have information about aliens possibly living in Africa. The emotional triangle that develops between Guglioli, the alien Agnes/Clevel, and Braemer Wilson leads down a winding path of human and alien interaction, neither side quite trusting nor understanding the other. Through the emotional attachments of these characters, the reader learns about the physical and spiritual components of the aliens. Their interactions raise the intensity level of the story and serve as a microcosm of the meandering search for understanding, frequented by severe misunderstandings, between alien and human throughout the novel.

White Queen’s depiction of earth a little over fifty years from now does not seem quite authentic. And even though the aliens attempt to shield themselves from human observation, the groping attempts at mutual understanding seem too restrained for such a momentous event. White Queen is barely saved by its interesting human/alien interactions.

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