POD - Stephen Wallenfels
At five o’clock one morning, the aliens arrive. Fifteen-year-old Josh dubs them PODs, short for Pearls Of Death. They’re black, shiny spheres that simply hang in the air. They announced themselves with an ear-shattering shriek. Any human caught out in the open was simply vaporized by some kind of light beam. There’s no communication from the PODs, and they’ve knocked out every source of human communication. Cell phones don’t work; landlines are dead; TV, radio and internet are all down. This means that everyone is stuck inside their homes, completely cut off from the rest of humanity.
Megs is only twelve. Shortly before the invasion, her mother left her alone in their car, parked in a hotel parking garage. She said she was going for a ‘job interview’ and would be back in an hour. Now Megs is on her own, watching in horror as hotel guests run, panicked, into the garage and attempt to drive anywhere else. Megs isn’t sure if the lucky ones get zapped by the alien death rays, or if the lucky ones are the ones that make it back into the hotel. Either way, she’s determined to wait for her mom. When hours turn into days, too afraid to enter the hotel, Megs is left on her own, trying to survive.
The story is told in first-person, present tense, by both Josh and Megs. Josh details trying to survive in his home with his father. Both of them are worried about his mom, who was at a conference out of town. There’s no way to contact her. Imagine being a teenaged boy, trapped inside a smallish house with your engineer dad. Survival situation or not, there’s going to be some conflict, and the author handles it all with a bittersweet sense of utter realism. The chapters narrated by Megs are both heartbreaking and inspiring. This is a kid who is used to living in not-great situations, and she’s capable of thinking on her feet when necessary. For all that, she’s still very much a child who needs her mom.
This novel should appeal to readers who enjoy scifi, and post-apocalyptic stories. A word of warning before starting to read: get comfortable, because this is one of those can’t-stop, read-it-in-one-sitting books. The author uses only a few characters, but makes them multi-dimensional and completely believable. This is no Spielberg script, where everything is just fine and no good people really suffer. The author allows events to play out as they most likely would in this situation, and forces everyone to make hard choices. The aliens are truly alien, which only adds to the claustrophobic feel of the story. Be prepared to be pulled into the story and truly care about the characters and the outcome. It’s hard to believe that this is a first novel. This author is one to watch.