Title: The Green and the Gray
Author: Timothy Zahn
The sun had long since set behind the trees of Riverside Park, on the western edge of Manhattan Island, and the lights of the New Jersey coastline were glittering on the Hudson River.
Why I chose this book:
I considered this when I saw it in my bookseller's catalogue as it was being published in paperback. I thought the story looked interesting and I knew I found Zahn nicely readable after reading his Star Wars trilogy a number of years ago. But I didn't have the budget to take the chance at the time, so I let it be. When I saw this on the shelf in the library, I grabbed it, happy to be able to read the story after all.
For seventy-five years the Greens and the Grays have lived quietly among us in the shadows of New York, alien refugees from a war of attrition that utterly destroyed the rest of their kind. Passing as everyday citizens, yet with powers and technologies unknown to humanity, each group has long believed that they are all that remain of their old world and their terrible conflict.
But now, to their mutual surprise, they have found each other, and the old hatreds and fears have once again risen to the surface.
And each side is preparing again for war.
On a cold October night, Roger and Caroline Whittier, a young couple struggling with their marriage, are accosted at gunpoint, and an unexpected burden is thrust upon them: Melantha Green, a twelve-year-old girl snatched from the hands of a peace coalition consisting of both Greens and Grays. The coalition had been preparing to cold-bloodedly sacrifice her in a last-ditch effort to prevent the impending battle...and it desperately wants her back.
As Roger and Caroline strive to protect Melantha and to understand the alien cultures they have suddenly been thrust into, they find aid in unlikely places. They're joined in their efforts by NYPD Detective Thomas Fierenzo, who's determined to prevent what he believes to be an impending gang war, and by Otto Velovsky, a former Ellis Island clerk who was present at the very beginning of the aliens' new life on earth.
Unlikely allies,unlikely heroes...and they have just one week to find a way to prevent New York City from becoming a battlefield the likes of which the world has never known...
I certainly wouldn't have thought I'd wasted my money if I had paid for this. There are three phases to the story here, and the first and third appealed to me most.
The story starts as Roger and Caroline, New Yorkers with a stumbling marriage, are walking home from a night at the theatre. They suddenly find themselves guarding a young girl whole has marks on her throat to suggest someone has just tried to strangle her.
As they try to find out what has happened to Melantha and what they should do next, the questions get more and more puzzling until they find themselves unravelling a strange mystery with an answer they can't quite believe - that two factions from a war on another planet have settled in Manhattan and having recently discovered each other's presence, are about to renew their war. With Melantha as a bargaining chip in between.
Roger and Caroline become futher embroiled in the building danger and are forced to rediscover each other and their own personal strengths as they attempt to find a way to prevent extra-terrestrial war from exploding in the middle of New York.
The book has a copyright date of 2004 and there is a clear resonance here to the attacks of 911 and the hold that day has left in the New York skyline and psyche. It's is laboured, just touched upon, but the link is there and I feel it strengthens the book rather than making light of such real life tragedy. (Although, I accept that as a non-American I may read that differently than some other readers would.)
I thorougly enjoyed the first half of the book, as Roger and Caroline, along with a New York detective working on an initially seperate track of investigation, slowly unravel the mystery of Melantha and the Greens and the Grays. However, I found myself feeling rather bogged down in the third quarter as that time was spent mostly of figuring out everyone's motives, tactics and lies. Once that was fairly much sorted and the action got underway again to try to stop the brewing war, I felt the story picked up again and I was soon enjoying the ride again.
This isn't a world shattering novel, nor does it break a lot of new ground (although the final revelation of the origins of the Greens and Grays was a clever twist). Instead it is an entertaining read with a solid plot and an interesting set of characters. Pick it up, sit yourself down and enjoy the read.