Modern day Minneapolis finds Gabe Fuentes babysitting his two younger siblings at the playground and surreptitiously chatting with his best friend. They aren’t suppose to be chatting. After all, their last get together involved a home made rocket and a small fire. Essentially, they have been grounded from each other for at least the summer. With a heavy heart, Gabe heads home with the twins in tow to his parents and his older sister. His parents are Mexicans that met in India and their homecooking is a fusion of the two cultures. Yum!
But I digress. You want to hear about the aliens. OK, so Gabe has an assortment of small unwanted pets he took in – a little fox, a bird, a lizard. And one night this sock puppet being pops into his room for a chat. He is Envoy and he is looking for a likely candidate from Earth to act as an Ambassador for the entire planet at the galactic assembly. Gabe is naturally intimidated by the offer but decides to give it a go anyways. Envoy proceeds to the basement where he uses odd bits and the clothes dryer to create an entagler to send the entangled Gabe to the galactic assembly. There Gabe becomes a target for at least one assassin and has a mystery to figure out. Meanwhile, back home his parents are facing deportation (since they are in the country illegally).
I loved this book. I really enjoyed William Alexander’s Goblin Secrets and Ghoulish Song but this is a new level of excellence from him. While suitable for all ages, it had a certain refined intensity that makes this my favorite Alexander book to date. I loved the multicultural aspect as so many SFF novels have Caucasians as the focus of the story. The Mexican-Indian cultural fusion of the Fuentes household, set in Minneapolis, reflects the real life I know and enjoy. Plus, I now want tasty curry tamales. Gabe’s awareness of this cultural diversity(with both the pros and cons of it) give him special insight for his new role as Earth’s Ambassador.
In the Galactic Assembly, the Ambassadors get to know each other through play. I thought this was a great point as well as allowing for fun and awkward moments. The author did a great job of capturing different approaches to communication from the various alien envoys, and also Gabe having to puzzle out the least familiar attempts at communication. Plus there is this nomadic warrior race that travels the galaxy dominating or annihilating any other alien race they come upon. They too have an Ambassador at the Galactic Assembly.
Pretty soon Gabe has lots of concerns. Someone is trying to kill him and he thinks it is another Ambassador. Plus his parents are facing deportation for being in the country illegally. I found these scenes particularly poignant as Gabe is trying to save himself, potentially the world, and now his family in particular. So much on one young man!
The ending was satisfying. It tied up the overall plot arc but left some questions open for a sequel (and I really do hope there is a sequel).
The Narration: William Alexander narrated his own story, as he has done with his other works. Once again, he was amazing. I have lived in New Mexico for over 2 decades and Alexander’s Hispanic accent for Gabe and his family was very believable; he didn’t over do it as so many non-Spanish speakers will at times. I also loved his various alien noises he had to come up with from time to time. He has clear distinct voices for both the male and female characters. In short, he is a joy to listen to.