If you have become tired of the standard first-contact science fiction stories, I believe you will be pleasantly surprised with Sam B. Miller’s new audiobook release simply called “U-10”. Not only is the story well expressed and the action flows like white-water rapids, the audiobook’s narration by John Pirhalla was professionally performed and flawless in its execution. He is a narrator on my radar to watch. The publisher’s summary does a decent job of giving you an idea of what the audiobook is about, but it is only a small example of all that will be uncovered in this fast-paced alien adventure. If you like contemporary science fiction with a fair amount of unique and interesting technology along the way, I suggest you pick up “U-10” and give it a listen.
The book is mainly about an alien society sent to earth to retrieve specimens of humans for their continued studies. I did enjoy that Mr. Miller added elements of humor to the story such as when are shown the pile of bureaucracy involved in such investigation activities. The aliens were required to fill out forms in triplicate before the mission could proceed. It made me think of the reputation of the United States Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and their required paperwork for a simple address change. The alien sent to perform the task experienced issues and was required to land off course near a group of US military members in an Afghanistan region. The members of this team were all well assigned for their given roles or possessed skills. Every one of them were required to stick together and be a functional unit to accomplish their end goal. Being in the information security industry, my favorite member was “Hashtag”. Yet, every time he was referenced, I could only imagine a twitter or social media tag being referenced.
What I found interesting in this story was not only that people were dealing with an alien visitation, but the United States was also in the middle of a heated battle with local insurgents trying to destroy them. So, there were actually two enemies to deal with as the story plays out. On top of all of this, we also have a covert agency assigned to investigate said alien visits much like the movie “Men in Black”; but far less humorous. You know it is not a good day for our team when this mysterious agency shows up with the highest level of clearance. Our team members struggle with the many different orders from above and even who they can ultimately trust.
What made this book more interesting was the unique and rather alien technology the team discovers. By simply adding, what appears to be a digital punch card, this alien swiss army device they discovered is able to become almost anything, and if misused, it could destroy not only our team but the entire world as well. The technology itself felt alien and I liked that it was not just earth-based devices that were more powerful. The only technology that mirrored other books was the use of universal translators, but even the way these were incorporated by the humans were different from others. Not only are we given a view into the U-10 device itself, but we also learn of the other alien technology this mysterious agency stole or confiscated from past alien encounters. This is one of the main reasons the secretive company has such power. Some of this technology is also leveraged against our alien visitors as well. Again, I highly recommend this to both technology sci-fi enthusiasts.
Unlike with other audiobooks in this genre, the aliens see the humans as savages and much lower on the galactic IQ rating. We are also shown the heavy set of rules governing various types of life, and thankfully humans are granted a small level of protection because they exist and are a bit sentient compared to animals and other life on the planet. Humans are thought to be nothing more than an unintelligent creature with some drives and motives, near animal status. The aliens quickly realize that they have underestimated humans and begin to see them in a very different light once they discover just how smart and innovative they really are.
I enjoyed that the author sprinkled in some pop-culture and nostalgic references for the listener. There is also an alien computer which is given a fun name by their human counterparts which keeps the laughs going as well. At times I would have liked to have had a few periods of downtime or more character backstory to better understand them. Although the action was flowing like white water rapids, there should be some time before experiencing the next set of rapids; I felt the story lacked some of these lulls. The story does close up the main plotlines. However, I can see where there might be future books in this series based on the potential open plots the story could pivot to.
The audiobook’s narration was done exceptionally well, and I liked the simple addition of some audio effects such as one sounding like they were talking to another via a radio. I do not recall any audio artifacts such as swallows, background noise, or page turns. The audio was clean and crisp along with the volume consistent. The ability of Mr. Pirhalla to voice the many different characters and keeping track of their accents was seamless. It made the characters feel alive and personal.
Parents and younger readers I have to give Mr. Miller credit for writing a science fiction book of this caliber without the need to include vulgar language or overly sexualized material. There is quite a bit of violence, some graphic at times, but nothing overly excessive for an action science fiction piece. I think young teen readers would enjoy the story along with adults.
In summary, the audiobook was a real rollercoaster of a ride. It was filled with action, adventure, and aliens. What more could someone ask for? There were a few plot holes and I would have liked to have had more background details on the characters, but these are more easily overlooked as the story if designed for entertainment, and that it provides. I have enjoyed some of Mr. Miller’s other books, and this one is right up there as well. If you enjoy aliens, science fiction, and mysterious agencies, I think you should give this book a listen.