Audiobook Review: Damocles by S. G. Redling

29 08 2013

Damocles by S. G Redling

Read by Angela Dawe

Brilliance Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 33 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Damocles is a wonderful and thoughtful examination of the initial contact between two humanoid species. SG Redling realistically handles the process of communication, through language, body language and other means. Damocles isn’t your typical science fiction adventure story. Instead of a grand scope tale of big issues of cosmic import, Redling tells an intricate drawn tale heavy on characterization and relationships.

Grade: B+

We’ve all seen this scene. A young man sits in front of some monitors and other sciency looking equipment, shocked at what he is witnessing. He calls his supervisor, who then puts him on the line with some general or the president or other big wig, and says. "Sir, we have been tracking something on an intercept course with the planet." Of course, this isn’t a big shocker. We know that plenty of space debris is flung at earth and rarely does it have any significant impact. Of course, the general or president knows this too, and inquires, "Well, is it an asteroid or comet or something really dangerous?" The hesitant young technician, well in over his head, will mutter something ominous like, "No sir, its worse." "Worse!" the seasoned leader will declare, "How do you know this?" With a grave tone he will reply, "Because it’s slowing down." ALIENS! We know, it and are excited. What does this mean? Have they come to Earth to show us the way to a new Galactic Age, or are they just explorers, wanting to meet other sentient life. Or worse, have they come to destroy us, killing us off, eating our bodies and enslaving the rest to build their hives on our once beautiful planet. We have seen and read about these situations for a long time. Yet, I have always wondered what it would be like if the situation was reverse. What is the reptile people of Alpha Centari, during their ritual mating season, discover an alien ship heading to their planet called the USS Enterprise, or perhaps the UN Exploratory Ship Nelson Mandela. What kind of alien invaders would we be? Would we come to share the good news of Christ to the crabmen of their ocean world so they won‘t go to hell, or steal the land and kill off the inhabitants of a Tropical, resource rich planet inhabited by visually unpleasant but otherwise peaceful sentient slugs. I’d like to think we would be ambassadors of science, looking to uplift species into a dawn of a new scientific age, sharing our prosperity, and respecting their cultures, but this doesn’t truly jive with historical precedent, does it?

After translating an ancient message from beings that may have seeded the Universe with life, Earth sends the space ship Damocles on a mission to visit one of the possibly inhabitant planets. When a malfunction forces them to make contact earlier than planned, Meg, a specialist in language and protocol, must establish a relationship with another species, despite a lack of any common communication method. This contact leads to paranoia and fear between the two species, as well as special bonds that have both personal and interplanetary implications. Damocles is a wonderful and thoughtful examination of the initial contact between two humanoid species. SG Redling realistically handles the process of communication, through language, body language and other means. Damocles isn’t your typical science fiction adventure story. Instead of a grand scope tale of big issues of cosmic import, Redling tells an intricate drawn tale heavy on characterization and relationships. The author allows you to see from both sides of the equation, how frustrating a lack of shared culture and language can be, yet how beautiful the exploration of shared ways of thinking are. The tale is told from two main points of view, through Meg and Loul, a local resident of Didet who wrote a controversial paper on interaction with an alien species.  At times, I felt the Didet cultural examinations were too close to earth life, yet I understood why Redling did this. It was fascinating to see a culture that was foreign, but shared a similar essence. My biggest problem with the book was how many questions it left open. This wasn’t really a bad thing, as much as a source of personal angst. Redling asks a lot of questions in Damocles, and answers very few of them.  Issues about the origins of the life, the possible shared history between the two species, and the social implications of the interaction between these two species were left up to the reader. I wanted answers to these questions but mostly because I wanted answers to these questions. The true beauty of Damocles was that despite a lack of a lot of action, or any typical alien/invader dynamics, Damocles wasn’t just a brilliant thought exercise, but a pretty compelling story. After completing this novel, I was filled with a sense of melancholy. I was going to miss Didet, and Meg, and the world that Damocles inhabited. I truly hope that Redling writes more on these themes or in the universe, just so maybe a few more of my questions would be answered.

Angela Dawes gives an amazing performance for a novel that had to be very trying for a narrator. Much of this dialogue took place, not is typical language, but in the use of concepts. The sentence structures were broken, relying on established ideas that made the phrasing clunky. Yet, somehow Dawe managed to make it almost sound poetic. Dawe captured the frustrating lack of understanding between the two main characters, but also did a wonderful job showing how they were able to communicate through more than just words. There is a very subtle humor that permeates this novel. In those very serious moments, when Meg is dealing with a world shaking epiphany, or Loul is wondering if his relationship with Meg is going to lead to disaster for his planer, something will happen that lightens the mood, and puts things in perspective. Dawe made these moments quite effective with her delivery. I have always enjoyed Dawes voice. She has the ability to sound natural no matter which end of the spectrum her character’s voice register falls into. Because of this her male voices feel just as real as her female. Overall, Damocles was a unique and fascinating audiobook experience and had me thinking long after the final seconds of the audiobook.

Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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