A Review Of "Cold Eyes (First Contact)" By Peter Cawdron

A Cool And very Intelligently Written Read


It took me a while to persuade myself to buy Peter Cawdron's book, "Cold Eyes (First Contact)" but the description was intriguing and that was enough. I am glad that I did, as it is one of the best books I have read in recent years, so good I felt I had to review it. Here goes...

Cold Eyes (First Contact)

The UN spaceship Magellan has been sent twelve light years away to Luyten's Star, a journey that has taken the ship some eighty years. The journey has been undertaken because the UN has discovered there is intelligent life on a planet they call Bee. Bee is tidally locked, a "cold eye" orbiting its star with the same face constantly turned towards it. Larger than Earth, the planet has a higher gravity and is low on a number of elements common on Earth that would be essential for a species to gain access to space. None of Magellan's crew have made the journey themselves but were each grown to adulthood over a period of eighteen months (from embryos derived from their progenitors back on Earth), before awakening and imprinting with relevant memories.

Dali, an astronaut-psychologist and the story's reluctant hero, is awakened and immediately runs into problems. In his case, the imprint fails making his early relations with other crew members problematic and his future uncertain. Relearning his progenitor's trade, Dali slowly finds his feet and starts to make himself useful. Despite their initial scepticism, he advances ideas to the other crew members, philosophical theories on the ways in which animals (including humans) interact, suggesting that we all lie and we do it pretty much all the time. Reasoning that such interactions will occur in any society but especially on a resource-poor "cold eye" world like Bee, Dali predicts that its natives will also lie and as his predictions bear fruit finds himself integrating better with the other crew members.

As in any story, problems occur (I'll be fuzzy here; if you read this book, and you should, you won't thank me for spoiling it), setting in motion a chain of events that puts Dali into direct contact with the natives on Bee. Dali's problems on awakening have remade him as quite a childlike character and an unlikely hero but that's his superpower, that he approaches the problems he experiences from a different, rather wonderous perspective. Dali quickly gains the philosophical expertise of his progenitor but with a twist, unlike the other crewmembers, he is not quite the same as his progenitor. He learns the old way and, as he progresses (as the story is told), his crewmates provide him, and us, much of the scientific explanation, training him to deal with the various problems he encounters.

As a fiction author, an author has to take some liberties but it's clear that Cawdron has kept those as limited as possible, presenting various ideas in his story, ideas that are scientific, social, philosophical and extremely wide ranging. Locations are less so given that the story remains for its entirety within one planetary system and largely focus on the planet Bee. However, there is variation in the sense that Dali finds himself waking on a human environed spaceship but later has to deal with some very different situations.

Presentation wise, there is little to say but that's primarily because it's an eBook and Kindles are basically black and white. That said, the book's description was enough to grab my attention and, despite some wariness, I eventually decided to try it and am very glad that I did. The author's writing style is excellent, not only in the way he tells his story but his grammar and spelling are good and his ideas appear well researched. The author does include some additional explanation at the end of the book which is interesting and quite revealing.

Cold Eyes (First Contact) It takes some time for the book to reach any real action but, when it does happen, it isn't dull and was sometimes, quite visceral. It is, however, refreshing to read a book where we humans are not, once again, defending the Earth in the last decrepit spaceship against evil aliens. Relationships are well realised with strong romantic bonds (by design) between the lead characters and, more to the point, Cawdron keeps those romances at a level I think works for a story that is, for the most part, about other things.

Having seen some of the rather negative reviews of the book, I didn't expect the book's ending and actually thought that it was pretty damned good. Unfortunately, I can't explain that much better without giving key elements of the plot away.

Overall, the plot was good, there is plenty of adventure (away missions and associated problems) along the way but my real fascination with the book is the intelligence with which the author has put together the scenario and the way he has, within it, set out to tell the story he did. Cawdron appears to be something of a First Contact afficionado, not exactly a specialist (hard to specialise in something that's never happened) but certainly very keen to envisage such things given the series of stories he has written all ostensibly about the same subject (although I'm sure they are still very different). Had I not read this book, I probably wouldn’t have read any others of his but, despite some trepidation on my part, the description was sufficient to persuade me to try and now it seems I have a new author I'd be happy to read. The end result is a book that is optimistic, hopeful and reflects the kind of human race I would like us to be but that, unfortunately, we usually aren't.

Thanks for reading.

James C. Rocks, Author ("The Abyssal Void" Series)

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