Reviewed by Paige Doepke.
Xenogeneic: First Contact is an impressive story rooted in science fiction. It follows Dr. Elena Pyetrov, a young and determined astronaut, on her space exploration mission. Her determination comes from the mysterious disappearance of her astronaut father years before. She believes his ship crashed on a faraway planet, Europa, and she hopes to find answers during this mission.
From the start, Erlick pulls the reader deeply into the story with nuanced and intriguing characters, heart-pounding action, and a straightforward and uncomplicated writing style. The excitement begins early in the novel when Elena’s spaceship goes off course and crashes into a planet that she suspects is Mars. She and the others on her mission make contact with aliens and a world very different from our own. Elena has a brief conversation with her father, who has aged rapidly on this unusual planet. Surprisingly, at no point did I question the validity of it all. The characters, human and alien, are extremely well developed and Erlick obviously has done extensive research on space travel.
As a scientist, Elena is entranced by the aliens and their advanced technology. Not only does she learn that they purposely crashed her spaceship on their planet, but they are able to restore human organs, manipulate their actions, and easily cause them bodily harm when they misbehave. Elena becomes determined to figure out their mission and convince them to coexist with humans rather than treat them like animals.
Like all good characters, Elena has many layers that become clear throughout the novel. She is a strong woman in every sense of the word, but she holds a lot of pain from the loss of her father and other family members. She has a complicated relationship with a man on her mission, Marc, and learns that she has a young, troubled sister, Thelma, who falls under her care.
Despite being a story about space exploration, readers will relate to the characters and the challenges they face. It is a story about forgiving your past and the struggle we all face between doing what’s best for ourselves or what’s best for others. Elena has to make decisions regarding her home planet, her sister, herself, and Marc.
Xenogeneic: First Contact is an exciting and provocative novel for readers of all ages interested in science fiction. It will stay with you long after you’ve read the last page.