04 August 2019

Review || Aliens and Ice Cream by Michael James





Aliens.

They’re everywhere.

If you go outside, they’ll kill you.
If you try to run, they’ll kill you.

Ice cream probably won't help.

On an entirely normal summer day, the sky rips apart and aliens pour from the wound. Black, featureless pods, they are horrifying in their efficiency, killing anything that steps foot outside. Inexplicably, they don’t attack anyone indoors.

No one knows where they came from, what they want and when—or if—they’ll go away. Matt Cutler wanted to spend Sunday with his family. Now, he’s trapped in a tree fort outside his house with his neighbor, Heather Keene, and his little sister Abby.

They can’t go outside.

They’re running out of water.

If dehydration doesn’t kill them, the aliens will.

But Matt thinks he’s figured out a way to save everyone… if the aliens don’t kill him first.



 




You might think given that cover that you are getting ready to read a sci-fi apocalyptic alien invasion story...and you are, except Aliens and Ice Cream is much more than that.  I wouldn't call this one heavy on the sci-fi either. More like sci-fi lite. Part horror, part thriller, with a good dose of domestic tragedy, the heart of this survival story is a coming of age tale. It's more about the interpersonal relationships than it is about aliens. 
Set in the midst of a neighborhood cookout, the story really begins like any day in any town, USA. Oh sure, there's some drama with certain neighbors, but who doesn't have that neighbor that they just don't care for? While we are all worried about who's having an affair with who, and whether that cute girl has figured out who is crushing on her, out of the blue comes...well, aliens. They quickly decimate the neighborhood, turning that cookout into a crispy critter human BBQ. Only there's a catch. Anyone "inside" is unnoticeable to the alien pods stationed outside.  The rules are pretty simple. Stay inside. Stay alive. But as we've frequently learned, there's always someone willing to overlook the rules. 

I'm not that big on alien sci-fi but Aliens and Ice Cream had enough gratuitous gelatinizing and vaporizing going on that it satisfied my horror-loving heart. The best scenes were tight, tense, and claustrophobic. You try being stuck in a treehouse for days, or a junction box, or even in your own house for days. In spite of this, I will admit I struggled in caring about a lot of the characters and really found myself wanted most of the adults to be zapped.  The dialogue was well-written so that's not the problem at all. The adults are the most jacked-up emotional messes seen this side of a soap opera. It's initially a very large cast of characters with a boatload of pageantry.  I couldn't even love to hate some of them. 
But the kids? Yeah, the kids are the gold star in this alien version of "As the World Turns." If you are looking for a character-driven narrative without a lot of science-y over-explanation, and love "this is how the world ends" novels, I think you'll find that Aliens and Ice Cream will pack a punch.