The Uninvited

Paul Cornell. The Uninvited, Virgin, 1997.
Steve Blake, an ex-photojournalist stumbles into a web of alien conspiracy that plans to change and take over the world. The book's origins as a 4-part TV series are belied by its lack of characterisation and its emphasis on plot and action. In the opening chapters Blake is shown to have a conscience about the images of death he captured on film, and the impact of real and faked images is considered. But, such musings are quickly dispensed with in favour of running around after aliens.

As the action is set in Britain there is a desire for a traditional existence that survives only in country calendars and period dramas. In this nightmare story the higher echelons of the police, politics and military combined with the nuclear and computer software industries are infiltrated by the aliens who take over people's minds and bodies. Newfangled technologies become the tools of the aliens, and the very heart of the British Establishment is riddled with aliens. You can almost feel the underlying ache for rosy-cheeked policemen, beaming over a Nintendo-free state. Even the women in Blake's life represent old and new values; there is the cardigan-wearing, librarian, Melissa Gates opposed by his ex-wife Joanna, a power hungry newspaper editor. Guess which one is taken over by the aliens, and which one fights them to almost inevitable death.

Like most fictional aliens, these invaders have two fatal flaws; they are part of a collective network so if one is hurt the rest are too, and they are attracted by our polluted atmosphere. The former attribute in previous days would have made them communist surrogates, but here you can read them as being cyphers for modern existence. Female liberation, computers and nuclear power have buggered up the old values and ways of life. The aliens are an exaggeration of the plights of modernity which has destroyed the British idyll.

Given the premise of this work there are plenty of cliches, and you can easily anticipate many twists in the plot. There are references to alien autopsies, brain implants, ufology and Fortean Times but they are not pursued to any great extent. Overall this is an undemanding read suited for coffee breaks or train journeys. -- Nigel Watson, from Magonia Monthly Supplement 21, November 1999.

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