Trust by David Moody

If you’ve ever wondered what life might be like when the aliens arrive, Moody’s Trust might be a decent way to put your expectations in perspective. Described, somewhat oddly, as an anti-science fiction novel, Trust follows the story of Tom Winters, who happens to be living in the village where the aliens choose to make themselves known.

So why anti-science fiction? I suspect it’s because the novel focuses on the mundane and ordinary. There are no scientists or government agents. There is no armed assault. This is no Independence Day or even The Day the Earth Stood Still. [Warning: Contains spoilers!]

Tom has given up his city life after it occurred to him that he couldn’t live that life anymore. He’s downsized to the country and found love. He walks and runs and he enjoys a few beers down the local on a Friday night.

When an alien ship arrives, initial fears are put to ease when it is revealed the aliens are nothing more than extra-terrestrial miners and their ship has been damaged beyond repair. They want to stay for a few months until help can arrive, and they’ll be willing to share their technology and advanced intelligence with everyone while they wait. And everything is going swimmingly, for a while. Everyone embraces the aliens. Tom’s brother, Rob, becomes good friends with one. They share beers together. Tom’s girlfriend and his friends in the village all seem excited by the prospect of the new arrivals. Only single mother Claire, and Tom remain sceptical. And of course they were right to, because the inevitable invasion does arrive, but not quite in the way one might expect.

The focus of the novel is told in conversations. People talking down the pub or in front of the TV news. People talking about how they feel about the aliens arriving and how it will change them, as they all accept it will. Everyone is remarkably upbeat about the visitors. There is only one dissenting voice described other than the main characters. There are no global protests mentioned, no comment from the major faiths or world leaders. This is how it affects the ordinary person.

I liked Tom. I liked his cynicism. It rang true and I could relate to it. Unless of course there was ‘something in the water,’ everyone seemed too easily won over. In reality, I would expect riots and protests and existential crises in abundance. The aliens describe their world in a way which is not unlike the way Utopia is described in More’s seminal work. It appears that everything is perfect, but is it? Really? Well, the answer comes towards the end of Trust.

Moody writes well and makes the mundane very readable. I wouldn’t call it a page turner, but considering that a good chunk of the story is conversation and procrastination, the plot moves along at a fair pace and even though you kind of know it’ll all turn sour, you’re kept guessing at how. And that is my only criticism.When it does come, it works well. It is suitably spectacular and horrifying. But, the excuses given by Jall, the alien Rob befriended, seem a little weak. I understand the plot device Moody tries to use in this, but I’m not convinced it works. It is almost unnecessarily convoluted.

Trust was originally published in 2005. Unfortunately, since then, the premise has been used (up to a point – stranded aliens not here to conquer) in the film District 9. Moody has included a reference to it in order to placate the reader. There are also lots of other science fiction references littered throughout, which shows that the author is appropriately science fiction literate, and that the characters live in our world. After all, when the aliens do eventually come, we all assume that its going to be like V, or Independence Day, or Childhood’s End, or if we’re lucky, E.T. You can probably now add Trust to that list too.

Forget the idea that this is an anti-science fiction novel. It has aliens in it and it’s a treatise on how the ordinary person copes when the world which they are familiar with changes beyond all recognition. In my mind, that makes it very simply, a very good science fiction novel.

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