the-lesson-coverThe Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull is a speculative science fiction novel revolving an alien race “arriving” and setting up shop on the US Virgin Islands. If someone had told me that this novel was actually the debut novel from the author, I would never have guessed. The writing here is fantastic and read like an author with at least two to three books under their belt. For readers thinking that the novel revolves around a first contact type theme, this is not it and you should turn back now. In fact, The Lesson felt at times to have spent more pages dealing with human interaction than with the aliens themselves. The novel could have been so much better if the author made things a bit more clear as I found many questions left unanswered.

“And they didn’t invade. They arrived.” – Derrick

Throughout the novel, we follow in the footsteps of a family that for all intents and purposes, seem rather quite normal. They each have their own problems to deal just like every other person out there and we are made well aware of this right in the beginning of the novel. These problems transition right into post alien arrival. For the most part, I’d say the main protagonist would be Derrick, a young lad who is fascinated with the alien race and has the most interaction with them. The majority of the other characters that revolve around him seems to there just to give the story more depth. Some will undoubtedly call this boring and a complete filler but in a way, this gives the story a much more realistic setting. If you can imagine an alien race, who are way stronger and powerful in every way imaginable, forcing the citizens into cohabitating, many of us will have no choice but to get used to that idea and continue living our daily lives as best we can under those circumstances. There will obviously be some troublemakers and other standouts but for the most part, most humans will submit. The backstory with the alien ambassador was quite possibly the highlight of the novel.

My one main problem with The Lesson is that so little has been revealed regarding the aliens. They made their arrival and situated themselves on the Virgin Islands but there weren’t any real reason as to why they choose that exact location. There also wasn’t any clear explanation on what the alien’s true intent or goal was. We learn that they were meant to teach the humans a “lesson” but by the time this was revealed, most readers most likely would have either guessed it or simply didn’t care. It was a letdown and the reveal came way too late in the story with no real followup. The aliens claimed they were growing at too rapid a pace in their home world and hence had to temporarily settle on Earth but we are not shown what they trying to do to solve their underlying problem. They weren’t mining for resources nor were they building anything on Earth. In fact, the humans seemingly got all the advantages due to their arrival and not much disadvantages with what technology and cures they were offering to the humans that weren’t possible at the time. Their only stipulation is that the humans are to be forced into coexisting with them for some time on the same island. That was it. I found this rather dull and I kept expecting more details to surface throughout the book but got none of it. There were a host of other points I found lacking in details and explanations but the most bizarre was the ending regarding the ambassador and her mission.

“You don’t need to do something to know it is not for you.” – Mera

I seriously think the novel could have been so much more as the author seems to have a lot of potential. Whether he had intended it to be this way or not I have no idea. It just felt unsatisfying after having turned the very last page. There are obviously themes that the author wanted us to explore and think about such as colonialism and human behavior when confronted with the unthinkable. The Lesson is clearly not a novel for hardcore alien and invasion/first contact genre fans. In fact the actual first contact between the aliens and humans were naught but an afterthought and a quick flashback, if that. Does the story contain a vibe of mysteriousness? Yes, it does but only because it felt like the author held back whether intentionally or not. In any case, I’m definitely interested in the author’s future works.