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Claude Lalumiere's Fantastic Fiction
The Impossible Bird

by Patrick O'Leary

(Tor Books, $14.95, paperback,368 pages, first published 2002, this edition 1 March 2003; ISBN: 0765303396.)

H.G. Wells's vastly influential 1898 novel The War of the Worlds established the alien invasion as one of the defining cover scantropes of science fiction. One of Wells's many accomplishments was to create a race of aliens that was so different from humanity as to be nearly ineffable while still recognizable as the colonialists he was condemning.

Not all of Wells's followers have had the skill and determination to imagine aliens that so deftly combine a profound sense of otherness with a pertinent resonance. In The Impossible Bird, Patrick O'Leary does so with daring originality. He creates a truly unusual scenario of alien invasion, conjures extraterrestrials that are unlike anything on Earth, and spins a tale in which his aliens and their plot become inseparable from his thematic concerns.

In 1962 two young brothers, Michael and Daniel, have strange experiences. They forget what happened to them and, as adults, become coldly antagonistic towards each other.

In 2000, both brothers are visited by violent strangers claiming to be government agents. The brothers are forced into the middle of a conflict between a group calling itself the Correctors and a cult headed by the messianic Dr. Kindler, a figure from their childhood. Both groups claim to understand the aliens who have been quietly invading Earth for decades and the relationship between hummingbirds and a new afterlife. Gradually, Michael and Daniel realize that their repressed memories hold the key to the weirdness that has engulfed their lives.

The Impossible Bird is an empathic meditation on the love between two brothers: once promised as unshakeable, then forgotten, and finally reaffirmed.

Originally published, in slightly different form,
in The Montreal Gazette, Saturday, 4 May 2002.

Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction is a series of
capsule reviews first published in the Saturday Books
section of The Montreal Gazette.

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