Review: The Serene Invasion / Author: Eric Brown / Publisher: Solaris Books / Release Date: Out Now
Utopian science fiction is always a bit of a risky endeavour. After all, strong stories tend to require some level of conflict and struggle to be remotely interesting, no one wants to read about a bunch of happy people eating ice-cream. The Serene Invasion begins with a basic sort of wish fulfilment; an alien force comes to Earth and uses its advanced technology to save mankind from itself. It forces humanity to play well with itself and others. Though this is a happy reversal of the usual state of affairs (and a refreshing change from the notion of peaceful humans inflicting this change on aliens), it also, by its very nature, lacks teeth.
Still, Brown writes a very entertaining tale of rapid social change and it does feel like an extremely worthy Radio 4 Play of the Day in parts; an interesting investigation into a world where violence has been excised, and a version of the galaxy where everyone is very nice. Brown’s signature style is to ensure that the protagonists have real impact on the world they live in, and the pace of the book quickens slightly when an opposing alien force arrive to create conflict. This does not add much action to the narrative but it does add tension. This is a character-focused emotional drama, rather than a tale about people punching monsters. The main conflict is internalised, intellectual or emotional, and this makes for an engaging and rather addictive read; more soap opera than space opera.
What could have been a story of creeping horror and control, or an extended and tedious rant, is instead an intelligent and earnest parable about human nature and what that means, presented in a very easy going and highly readable way.