A sharp allegorical novel about a hidden human civilization, a crucial election, and a mysterious invisible force that must not be named, by one of our most imaginative comic novelists
LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/FAULKNER AWARD • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post
When sociologist Nalini Jackson joins the SS Delany for the first manned mission to Jupiter, all she wants is a career opportunity: the chance to conduct the first field study of group dynamics on long-haul cryoships. But what she discovers instead is an entire city encased in a bubble on Europa, Jupiter’s largest moon.
Even more unexpected, Nalini and the rest of the crew soon find themselves abducted and joining its captive population, forced to start new lives in a place called New Roanoke.
New Roanoke is a city riven by wealth inequality and governed by a feckless, predatory elite, its economy run on heedless consumption and income inequality. But in other ways it’s different from the cities we already know: it’s covered by an enormous dome, it’s populated by alien abductees, and it happens to be terrorized by an invisible entity so disturbing that no one even dares acknowledge its existence.
Albuquerque chauffer Chase Eubanks is pretty darn sure aliens stole his wife. People mock him for saying that, but he doesn’t care who knows it. So when his philanthropist boss funds a top-secret rescue mission to save New Roanoke’s abductees, Chase jumps at the chance to find her. The plan: Get the astronauts out and provide the population with the tech they need to escape this alien world. The reality: Nothing is ever simple when dealing with the complex, contradictory, and contrarian impulses of everyday earthlings.
This is a madcap, surreal adventure into a Jovian mirror world, one grappling with the same polarized politics, existential crises, and mass denialism that obsess and divide our own. Will New Roanoke survive? Will we?
Johnson (Loving Day) delivers an alien abduction satire that reads like Gulliver's Travels by way of The Truman Show. It opens with sociologist Nalini grimly analyzing her bro-y fellow astronauts on the SS Delany, a cryoship headed for Jupiter. A Black woman, she's "coincidentally" assigned as assistant to the only Black man on the crew, and the two are relentlessly othered. Surveying Europa, the pair observe what appears, impossibly, to be a domed human city. Thus far, the story feels straightforward, but then the perspective switches to Chase, chauffeur to an aging billionaire. He's convinced his wife is an alien abductee, and his conviction proves his gateway to learning that the Delany crew has been kidnapped to the domed city and Chase's boss is funding their rescue. The political stew the would-be rescuers drop into, and the intersecting factions that arise around them, become scaffolding for Johnson's commentary on class, partisanship, capitalism, and things that go unsaid "invisible things." All too soon, Nalini's sharp observations of the Jovian city's culture blur into academic bloviation, and long-winded caricature becomes the book's defining feature. Johnson is too intentional a writer for that to be accidental, but purposefulness does not equate to an enjoyable reading experience. It's sharp, but it lacks heart.
it’s but i wanted to like it more
smart quick dialog. wacky premise. mirrors politics in a dark humorous way. ending was what i expected but really left me feeling, meh.
Lot of Good Stuff but Little Payoff
Says it all