When I read about Delas Heras’ debut, The Intergalactic Interloper, it sounded like a perfect change of pace from the world outside. It’s a short book, humorous if not laugh-out-loud funny, and charming in a gentle, nostalgic way. The action begins in the distant past of New York City 1995, a place and time that feels comforting purely because it is a quarter of a century and thousands of miles away from where I am right now.
When part-time bookseller and aspiring musician Ollie goes looking for his missing cat, Pirate, one night, he sees a strange turtle-like alien creature disintegrate a pigeon on his roof with a ray gun. Did Pirate meet the same fate? Meanwhile, the alien, Axzleprova, is trying to make first contact with Earth cats, their local species of choice, and are frustrated by the disappearance of their favorite specimen.
Ollie does his best to convince his friends and band mates that he isn’t going crazy and that he needs their help to find his cat. The combination of an alien presence and a feline absence set off a chain of events that bring a cast of absurd characters into contact and conflict with each other. The chapters alternate viewpoints between Ollie, the alien, his friends, and several of his neighbors, some of whom get up to some very strange extracurricular activities.
I enjoyed this book, but I do feel like its breeziness made it seem a bit slight. I wanted a quick read, but I also wanted a bit more from this premise. I’ve read a few of those big, kaleidoscopic novels about disparate characters on the periphery of an event – Skippy Dies comes to mind – and I love when a novel digs in to the personalities and motivations of a huge ensemble. The Intergalactic Interloper plays with that notion but perhaps doesn’t take it far enough. Also, one of the story threads about Ollie’s neighbor Constance feels like quirkiness for the sake of it.
Price Waldman narrates the audiobook, bringing a perfect level of of arch humorousness to the absurd proceedings. I definitely think his performance adds to the entertainment value of the book, and would recommend checking it out in audio.
I’ll keep an eye out for more books by Heras. This is a promising debut, and a decent way to spend a few hours forgetting your troubles and the state of the world outside.
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for a unbiased review.