*Book provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
The aliens have come, and they weren't subtle about it. Worldwide, every telecommunications device displays the same message: We are 'Aliens' You must obey us in full to survive A Gamma Ray Burst will arrive in 164 Earth days. Humans have no way of verifying the danger or the intent, but they can verify the signal is somewhere past Neptune. The next several months are spent following instructions from the aliens, while still trying to determine their true motives.
This book hit on a lot of my own personal worries and unreasonable phobias. We get to read about the risks of trading your personal data for free services, even if some of them are life-saving. And we get visited by aliens who are far superior to us in terms of technological capabilities. Yeah, this one hit a few of my fear sectors.
Almost the entire time I was secretly hoping it would end up being an elaborate hoax led by the characters MacDonald (an billionaire with a strong survival instinct) and his right-hand man, Charlie (a programmer who created code that makes NPCs in games capable of independent thought). Not much of a spoiler but, no, the aliens are real. Very real. And they've stationed hundreds of A-Gravs (think Space Storage Container) design to help humanity accomplish the goals of saving Earth.
Then we get the stories of Tim and Sam who developed a program called MIDAS that is capable of disseminating, analyzing and correlating data, in this case, personal data, right down to their DNA. Because she had been a victim of identity theft after her disabling car accident, Sam is very strict about making sure the data is anonymized (even if she never thinks it'll be enough). She even makes sure to set flags in place in case that anonymization is compromised. At the same time, they need to balance this out with MacDonald's demands. Tim keeps pushing Sam to 'play nice' so they can get paid the big bucks. She knows he wants that payout so she can get a surgery to give her back full control of her legs, but she's not willing to risk others going through what she did with the identity theft. It makes for a very interesting back-and-forth.
I absolutely loved Sam, and not just because she's a gamer girl and we get to see advances in gaming. In this world, virtual headsets are commonplace, and NPCs are way more advanced (I love Skyrim NPCs, but dang they're dumb!). Sam and her team, called "Bruised and Broken Bitches" because they're an all female, all wheelchair bound team, are highly competitive in tournaments. They're even a top tier team. She also gets to show us about the ways disabled people are treated. Some see her in a wheelchair and immediately look for a leg cast, others treat her only with pity, others argue that if she's able to get around on crutches (even if for just a short time) she's not really disabled. And that, coupled with Sam's "screw you, I've got this" mentality makes her, in my opinion, the strongest character in this book. And that's even compared to Colonel Martel who is not someone to screw around with.
To make things even more interesting and realistic, Lloyd gives us the multiple attitudes towards the aliens that we would expect. There are the people who believe that their arrival heralds a new religious movement. There are people who immediately think that the aliens are there to destroy everyone. He even breaks down the middle group into cautious pessimists and cautious optimists. It really helped to make everything feel more real.
This book was a very nice read. A very human story in a book about alien arrival. I happily give 4 hoots and encourage you to pick up a copy!