Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Road to Roswell

Connie Willis
Completed 6/7/2024, Reviewed 6/7/2024
2 stars

I was sadly disappointed with this novel.  It’s supposed to be fun fluff.  For the most part, it was cute.  Unfortunately, it suffered from the same tired formula Willis has used in most of her books.  People don’t listen to the protagonist, they talk over him/her, the protagonist gets into some kind of trouble, someone saves them.  My disappointment was compounded by a tediously trite ending.  I’ve really liked some of Willis’ other books, including Blackout and Passage.  While they had the Willis formula, the circumstances and specifics were enough to make them terrific books.  Roswell simply didn’t have enough interesting circumstances or specifics, despite it being about UFOs and aliens.  The one thing it had going for it: it was a very fast read. 

Francie goes to Roswell to be the maid of honor at her college roommate’s wedding.  Shortly after she arrives, she’s kidnapped by an alien and forced to drive it into the New Mexico desert to some unknown destination.  Along the way, they pick up others:  Wade, an alien abduction insurance salesman; a sweet little old lady casino aficionado; a UFO conspiracy theorist; and a western movies fan in an RV.  But there’s more to these characters than meets the eye.  Everyone is hiding secrets.  As they travel together, they figure out how to communicate with the alien and Francie and Wade figure out that it needs their help to find another alien out in the desert, and it’s of utmost importance.  

As far as characters go, I actually liked them.  I thought they were a well-rounded collection of pushy people.  You may ask about Francie, the protagonist.  Was she pushy?  Actually, she had a pretty strong self-editing brain.  She didn’t need the people around her to prevent her from talking.  She prevented herself just as much.  But she was nice.  Wade clearly has massive secrets.  The hints in the text are pretty obvious, but I kind of liked him anyway.  And just when the jokes seemed to run out with a character, Willis introduces a new one.  

I’m not sure whether I liked the alien, who Wade and Francie nicknamed Indy because of the way he whipped around his tentacles.  Indy reminded me a lot of the character named Cheese from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.  He’s comical, but if used too much, is just plain annoying.  I did like the process of Indy learning to “speak” in English, learning jargon from all the Westerns’ DVDs on the RV.  However, Indy’s mode of communication, letters or characters scrolling across their tentacles, was bizarre and a little tough to accept.  I like the concept of imagining different communication modalities, but couldn’t totally buy into this one.  

I know quite a few people who really liked this book.  I give it two stars out of five.  It would have been three stars, but the end killed it for me.  It was just too trite and formulaic.  If I’m going to read any more Willis, I think I’m going to stick with rereading the Oxford Time Travel series.  I’d recommend them to people new to the author.  To Say Nothing of the Dog particularly is much better at being a fun book than this one was.  

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