Tag Archive: Gene Doucette


Writing funny science fiction is not easy. The seminal classic, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, more or less set the standard for the funny sci-fi subgenre when it was created all those decades ago. Ever since then, it’s been held as the standard against which other funny sci-fi novels would be judged.

There are pleasant exceptions, such as John Scalzi’s novels. (Unfortunately, his more recent work has gotten too snarky, to the point where every character sounds exactly the same.) Another happy exception is a brand new novel by Gene Doucette – “The Spaceship Next Door.”

The premise itself is interesting enough: a spaceship lands in the town of Sorrow Falls, Massachusetts, and proceeds to do absolutely nothing for three years. There are no dramatic “first contact” scenes, no enigmatic aliens, no interplanetary romance – just your typical alien spaceship, hanging out in the middle of a field, minding its own business and keeping people from getting too close with its alien forcefield.

Eventually, the government sends a bright (though not very experienced) young man to investigate his pet hypothesis. He meets a quirky, precocious 16-year-old girl who knows everyone and everything in her town, and together they join forces to figure out what’s what and save the world while they’re at it. Along the way, they bump into enigmatic locals, bored soldiers (who spent the last three years waiting for an alien invasion that never came) and a wacky assortment of UFO groupies that created a trailer park community next to the flying saucer.

The book is intelligent, well written and has quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. The characters are beautifully developed and not just used as cardboard cutouts whose only purpose is to move the plot along. (I’m looking at you, Mr.Asimov.)

That said, “The Spaceship Next Door” falls a bit short of perfection in its action scenes. Some of them are explained in overly elaborate details: a certain scene involving a car and a ravine is stretched out over an entire page, even though the action is only 10 seconds long, if that. The pacing is somewhat uneven throughout the book. The first half of the book is slow – almost too slow. The second half is much more fast-paced, and the two don’t mix too well. (Think “Hot Fuzz” with Simon Pegg.) The end result is pretty, but I daresay it could have used a bit more editing around the edges.

Overall, “The Spaceship Next Door” is a decent sci-fi book that works equally well as a detective mystery (some of the plot twists were excellent), a comedy, a sci-fi novel and even a young adult book. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great experiment and a brilliant reversal of the all-too-typical “first contact” trope that’s all too common in science fiction.

Final score: four out of five stars

Full disclosure: I’ve received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The second book in Gene Doucette’s “Immortal” trilogy suffers from the classic case of author fatigue: when your editor is pressing you for a sequel and when your devoted fans will buy anything to read more about their favorite character, the motivation to write the Great American Novel may not be there…

(See also: the disappointing sequel to Justin Cronin’s “The Passage.”)

The story is fairly simple: an oracle tells our favorite immortal that he’s about to die. In the meantime, a series of strange events that may or may not be related to his past in ancient Greece happen to our protagonist, leaving him seemingly no choice but to jump back into the fray.

The ingredients from the first book all seem to be there: an immortal alcoholic? check; snarky observations about civilization? check; bizarre events that don’t quite add up until the very end? check… sort of. There are far fewer flashbacks to the olden days and a lot more seemingly irrelevant (at first, at least) preludes to each chapter. They’re written IN ALL CAPS, which gets very tiresome very quickly, especially as they get longer with each chapter. They make sense in the end, but it’s not very reader-friendly.

Unlike its prequel, “Hellenic Immortal” doesn’t quite have the same black-and-white moral dilemma where the world’s fate is on the line. Throughout the book, and up to the very end, I kept wondering why Adam couldn’t just walk away. After all, he did that a lot earlier in his life. This book reminds me of the joke I heard about “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark: if Indie stayed home and didn’t do anything, the outcome would have been exactly the same. All that running and getting shot at was for nothing. (Sorry, Indie fans!)

I wouldn’t recommend this book, unless you were a huge fan of the first book and wanted to speed-read through it on your way to book three.

Final score: three stars

Buy it on Amazon