3 April 2011

Book review: Notes from An Alien

I have become used to unusual followers on twitter - but was intrigued to realise I was being followed by an alien.  Her name is Sena Quaren, an Angian woman from a star system about twelve light-years from Earth. 

I had to find out more and discovered a new book which stretched the boundaries of the short story yet at 42,000 words is not a novel in the conventional sense.

Notes from An Alien by Alexander M Zoltai is, on one level, a science fiction story on an epic scale, following the lives of many generations over the course of a centuries long war. 

We live through ecological disaster and the near extinction of entire populations, before finally reaching inter-global peace.  One of the worlds was obsessed with religious superstition and practised brutal sacrifices yet the other, based on the power of corporate management was for me more chilling. 

There are, of course, a number of inescapable parallels with our world rooted deep in the author’s background.  The book explores a wide range of (for me at least) quite radical styles, including ‘notes’ and interviews, as well as ‘news’ updates.  I was left wanting more, as there were many sub plots of great potential that were never developed as we were moved quickly on to the next world, a new generation.

More than once, I found myself going back to re-read sections where I had missed something that later proved to be significant. This is something I rarely do with more conventional novels, so it says something about Notes from An Alien that I wanted to understand the detail.

Alexander M Zoltai

I particularly wanted more about Sena Quaren, the enigmatic narrator, who ‘reached out’ across space to co-author this book. The earth-bound author, Alexander M Zoltai, describes himself as a man with a nature that has always had problems with the way things are done in the social realm, including daily conversations, parties, groups, organizations, political systems, and governments. 

As you get to know Alexander Zoltai, you start to discover the paradox of his complex world.  He says "I'm just the translator and caretaker here. Sena isn't 'just' a 'co-author' of the book. She's a character and extremely real for me - as real as what most authors feel is the reality of their characters - maybe, just a bit more real.

As I am writing this, the news of events in Libya provides all of us with reasons to agree with Alexander.  Notes from An Alien is one of those rare works that raises some profound questions about our world and lives on in your memory. 

Tony Riches

A review copy of Notes from An Alien can be obtained at http://nfaa.wordpress.com  and it will be available for purchase, in print and e-book formats, through FastPencil from the 16th May 2011. 


  1. Tony,

    Thank you, so much.

    Yours is the first review.

    There will be more, God willing, in a collection of short stories from the same Universe as Notes from An Alien...

  2. I just moved the link to this blog up to the top tier of links on my Blogroll :-)

  3. Thank you, Tony for such an insightful review. Congratulations Alexander on your first of many reviews.


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