Catalyst: A Novel of Alien Contact
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Review by Cathy Green
Tachyon Publications Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1892391384
Date: 15 September, 2006 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Chudoku was supposed to be a colony world devoid of sentient life, though there was evidence that an alien civilization once had been there. Alone in the dark, hearing voices Kaslin initially is terrified but soon starts attempting to communicate with what or whoever was making the sounds by echoing the sounds back cluelessly.
Soon Kaslin is surrounded by aliens who proceed to strip off his clothing, pat and stroke and lick him all over and eat off all his hair. Not exactly the first contact situation he'd dreamed of.
As Kaslin bounces from one disaster to the next, he does his best to preserve some autonomy, dignity and control, while only partly succeeding. In many ways, Kaslin's situation is basically an extended metaphor for adolescence, given that Kaslin is stuck trying to make sense of a rapidly changing body and trying to assert some independence while having very little control over his own life as everyone from his parents to other colonists (and the aliens) try to dictate his behavior, just as would be the case if he'd never stumbled across the aliens. While Kaslin is the catalyst of the novel's title, he has almost no control over the outcomes of the events he has set in motion.
Hoffman packs a lot into her brief (173 pages) and fast-paced novel.