“ Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Author: Clifford D. Simak / Hardcover / 282 Pages / Book is published 1980-01 by Ballantine Books (P) „
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The Visitors is another book in Clifford.D.Simak's extensive biblography of sci-fi novels that once more follows the familiar theme of mankind's first contact with an unknown alien intelligence.
This time around the aliens are charcoal coloured, cubed creatures that gather in Earth's orbit before slowly descending to the planet's surface. At first, no one can quite fathom who or what they are or what their motives are and as the plot progresses, these questions remain unanswered. One thing is quickly obvious; they are not defenceless....as is demonstrated when a small town barber takes a pot-shot at one of the visitors with his rifle only to be swiftly dispatched into a smouldering pile of ash!
Before long, the first of the visitors to arrive has begun to devour whole trees in the woods surrounding a small American township. (In fact all of the visitors end up descending to different parts of The United States Of America and in a few remote instances, Canada!) Soon after, the mysterious alien then begins depositing cubes of Cellulose in its wake before developing lumps that quickly spawn out into minature versions of the original visitor! These babies then begin consuming the Cellulose that has been left behind whilst all the while, scientists and govermennt officials in Washington D.C attempt to decipher just what these mysterious visitors are....
Jerry Conklin, a graduate studying Forestry at University, has more idea than most. One of the first people to come into contact with the visitors, he is taken inside one of them upon its first arrival. Quickly deposited outside again when he has proved of use, Jerry is left with the distinct impression that he has been somewhat communicated with but decides to keep his encounter a secret for fear of ridicule and disbelief. Meanwhile, more of the visitors begin to turn up all along the Continental United States leading to much panic at Washington that things are never going to be the same again and that everything we once thought we knew may now be thrown into question...
The Visitors is an excuse for Simak to theorise, in fictional form, the ramifications of what might happen if a completely alien presence ever thought to make contact. He addresses much of the supposed concerns that might actually beset a goverment in power and looks at the longer-reaching consequences that might affect humankind. As such, this makes for a highly interesting read that is all wrapped up in an enjoyable sci-fi romp of the kind that Simak is best and fondly remembered for...
Though not the greatest of his books, and in brief summary not a lot really happens throughtout the novel if one is honest, this remains still one of my favourites of the many novels that he wrote. The book is less about big, dramatic action but more about questions of what if? And to be fair, this really DOES work!
It is fair to say that the novel leaves the reader with just as many questions as it does answers but there is a chilling final twist that lifts this book far above just a random smattering of ideas thrown loosely together. It is not in Simak's nature to explain everything behind his visitors, but instead take a far more realistic approach. For in truth, were such events actually to occurr, it seems unlikely that everything would be all wrapped up conveniently and neat!
If you like your classic sci-fi to keep you guessing and you like reading books that make you think,. then you could do worse than give this a go. It certainly goes to prove that, in today's modern age, that Simak has become a very under-rated and oft-forgotten author and it is a shame that someone of such talent should so easily be left aside in the wake of more popular, trendier authors such as Phillip.K.Dick or Robert Heinlein, both of whom are far inferior in this one reviewer's opinion!