BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A group of aliens stranded on Earth impact the small seaside town of Thatcham.
PROS: Interesting premise; quick-moving, to-the-point prose; reminds us that alien invasion stories don’t have to be stitched-together action sequences; wonderfully creepy final act.
CONS: Takes a while before the really good stuff happens, then it’s over; characters acting inconsistently or illogically.
BOTTOM LINE: A bit of a misfire from a talented writer.
When science fiction fans think of alien invasion, they tend think of the action-filled special effects spectacles shown in film. In literature, invasions are often meatier, usually offering a more personal look at the impact of our alien foes. The depiction is more complicated when the invasion is more subtle, like this one depicted by David Moody.
In Trust, aliens arrive in the small seaside town of Thatcham, home of Tom Winter, a man who opted for the relatively stress-free life of a small town after the death of his parents, a situation with which he still hasn’t come to terms. Through the eyes of Tom, his beloved girlfriend Siobhan, his brother Rob, and their friends, we get to see how the arrival of aliens impacts their idyllic lives.
The aliens’ arrival is not met, as one might expect, with much military force. Instead it turns out that the aliens have been in contact with the authorities since before their arrival. Their story is that they have become stranded on Earth after a failed space mining expedition, and that means three hundred plus aliens will be residing on Earth until they can be rescued sometime in the next year. The aliens are free to roam the Earth, and indeed many stay in Thatcham. They prove themselves to be non-violent and are even referred to as “visitors” to help merge them into society. So this is an alien invasion story, of a sort. Indeed, Trust acts as a reminder that stories are about people, not the stitched-together action sequences one might expect. This is a good thing. Good stories are about people and the focus here is definitely on the characters, particularly Tom.
But when characters become the focal point, it’s imperative that their behavior make sense. This is not always the case here. At times the characters behave in an inconsistent or illogical way. When the aliens arrive and are free to mingle with the public, for example, Tom is the only Doubting Thomas as to their benevolent nature. The rest of the town seem to take their arrival in stride. And the rest of the world? It’s difficult to tell from the narrative what anyone outside of Thatcham thinks. Sure, flocks of outsiders descend on the small town when the aliens arrive, but other than that, it seems to be a surprising non-event to the world-at-large. Anyone who has visited any public forum knows that there are plenty of outspoken voices on any serious issue, yet nobody in the book questions that all the residents and tourists of Thatcham don’t even question the aliens’ story, despite some parts of it being ill-explained. To be fair, some later attempt is made to make clear the human lack of reaction, but it takes so long for the aliens’ bad intentions to be known, it just seems like an unrealistic depiction rather than a clue.
People also behave inconsistently on a character level. Tom, who is seen to be truly in love with Siobhan, practically forgets her when he too-quickly decides that those affected by the aliens are beyond help. He doesn’t even try, and that undermines the otherwise endearing portrayal of their relationship and adversely affects the impact of the wonderfully creepy final act. And in the midst of all the hand-waving, Tom’s issues with his parents’ death never get resolved.