After The Saucers Landed
Philip K. Dick award nominee 2016
I’ve been struggling with ways to describe this book to my friends. Last time I tried, it went about this well: “Okay, so you know how in the 1970s there was this whole groovy concept of aliens as Space Brothers? Yeah, so… what if those were the aliens we made first contact with, complete with sequined jumpsuits? Or…um, maybe they thought that was what we wanted so appeared like that…? Unless, the whole thing isn’t real at all, but an experience humans created out of their own ‘Third Space’…. okay, I don’t really know and I’m not sure it matters, anyway—but, eh, what I’m trying to say is that it’s a good book…?”
Because the frustrating part of trying to describe Douglas Lain’s After the Saucers Landed to people, is that I do think this is a good book.
It just might be written in French.
Let me explain what I mean. There’s a scene near the end of the book that describes a lecture. The lecturer, one of the main characters, Harold Flint, a former member of the Fluxus art movement and UFO expert, explains how malleable human perception is. He uses an example that goes something like this: suppose you’re dreaming you’re on the Metro in Paris, and someone says “This sentence is in French.” Basically, it’s kind of the truth, even though it isn’t, right?
The whole book is like this.
The. Whole. Book.
I feel like this metafictional schtick should have annoyed the hell out of me. I avoided those kids in high school who got high and talked philosophy and listened incessantly to Rush. I always thought they were trying too hard to be cool.
Yet, there’s something compelling about After the Saucers Landed. The narrative is purposefully disjointed. Scenes shift from empty boardwalks to crowded beaches, with little more than a confused reference from the narrator about ‘missing spaces,’ who may or may not be Brian Johnson, a UFOlogist trying to find his way in a world that’s post-contact, where the aliens have landed with their message of peace, love and oneness, and people are ‘surrendering’ rather than being abducted… mostly.
I think that’s part of the appeal for me. There’s an underlying sinister vibe to this story that becomes much more pronounced after Brian’s wife Virginia is abducted and he’s stuck with a kind of clone of her in an alien that’s known as Asket, but who has been a number of other people, including Harold’s wife, Carol… probably.
This uncertainty that kept me on the hook, intrigued. Lain’s writing is also strong enough to keep me grounded, despite the trippiness of this concept book.
Would you like it? I have no idea. Did I? I’m not entirely sure.
This book is in French.