The Spaceship Next Door
Paperback | Kindle
By Gene Doucette
Publisher: John Joseph Adams | Mariner Books | HMH Books
Release date: September 4, 2018
With a title like The Spaceship Next Door, you’d think this book was a beloved children’s tale about a little girl who befriends her new neighbor, “Shippie,” a spaceship from another world. Instead, in Gene Doucette’s new novel, the little girl is precocious 16-year-old Annie Collins and “Shippie” is not exactly buddy material.
It’s been three years since an alien spacecraft landed in a field in the small mill town of Sorrow Falls, MA, where it’s sat dormant ever since. The U.S. military has formed a perimeter around it, while just outside is an RV campsite filled with eccentric alien watchers with surveillance equipment waiting for something – anything – to happen. And it’s about to. When Ed Somerville, a government operative unconvincingly posing as a reporter, comes to town, he immediately hires the young, knowledgeable Annie to be his guide and together they try to uncover the secret behind this mysterious ship now that it seems to be “awakening.”
In Annie, you get a mature teenage heroine who’s not terribly interested in boys or social media or the superficial aspects of life. And thankfully, she’s not filled with typical teenage angst — she’s been through too much in her short life to waste her energy on that type of behavior. Instead, she uses her intellect, wit, and independence to get by, and remains level-headed even in the face of disappointment and danger. She manages to turn a high security-clearanced government official into HER sidekick, and even the young soldiers at the army base as well as the camped-out UFO enthusiasts are impressed by her.
The first part of the book progresses slowly, yet interestingly, exploring the town’s geography and history, as well as Annie’s life – sick mom, absentee dad, quirky best friend — and the goings-on of the townspeople who’ve become laxed about the presence of their bulky alien neighbor. Even the soldiers guarding the ship have grown bored awaiting an alien invasion that’s never come. The surrounding area is now a tourist attraction, but for those who live nearby, it’s almost as if it’s no big deal that there’s a spaceship right in their backyard. Just as the residents have become complacent, so does the unsuspecting reader; that is, until people start acting strangely and then the pace really picks up. There are a few reveals you won’t see coming because the story lulls you into a false sense of security — Shippie has been there so long without issue, so surely nothing bad can happen now, right?
If you stripped this story of all its fantastical scifi-horror elements, it would still be intriguing. I would have enjoyed this book even if Shippie had been just an innocuous hunk of metal, because I loved the premise of a spaceship that lands on Earth and does absolutely nothing. It’s a total mind-fuck.
The Spaceship Next Door is an atmospheric, smart, first-contact tale that’s filled with humor and twists and never gets bogged down in technobabble.
When a spaceship lands in Sorrow Falls, a lovable and fearless small-town girl is the planet’s only hope for survival
Three years ago, a spaceship landed in an open field in the quiet mill town of Sorrow Falls, Massachusetts. It never opened its doors, and for all that time, the townspeople have wondered why the ship landed there, and what—or who—could be inside.
Then one day a government operative—posing as a journalist—arrives in town, asking questions. He discovers sixteen-year-old Annie Collins, one of the ship’s closest neighbors and a local fixture known throughout the town, who has some of the answers.
As a matter of fact, Annie Collins might be the most important person on the planet. She just doesn’t know it.
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