“Distant Cousin” is an interesting and eccentric book that manages to cross a number of genres – a little bit science fiction, sprinkled with alterna-sociology, a generous dash of techno-thriller, several roman-a-clef conventions gently folded in, and a rather sweet love story. Oh, and finding a place in the world for yourself; not the easiest thing for anyone, let alone for the young woman who calls herself Ana Darcy. Ana Darcy appears very early one morning at the University of Texas’ Mt. Davis observatory with an urgent warning; the Earth will be in terrible danger from a so-far-undetected asteroid. Ana knows this for certain, because she is much, much older that she appears, and from a good bit farther away than the place she first claims to have come from. Which is the moon…

She is, in fact, a scientist from another planet, sent to observe the earth from a distance on behalf of her own people, who may have originated here – hence the ‘distant cousin’ – but Ana has good reason to keep quiet about many things, even among those friends she makes in the course of her quest. And she is an endearing person, both as a character and as written; observant, studious, given to sudden impulses and often quite uncertain about herself. The various stories unfold at a leisurely pace, but seem to conclude in mid-arc – not surprising once the reader realizes the final quarter of “Distant Cousin” is a careful set-up for not one but two sequels.

Much of the story is set in the mountains and deserts of West Texas around Alpine, or in southern New Mexico; the scenery, the culture and the cuisine are observed in close details, as an alien like Ana would see them. Mr. Past has included a few local characters and locations, which must especially amuse readers who know that part of the country well. This is a very readable diversion, and what is revealed about Ana’s own culture and civilization is worked out in considerable and convincing detail.

“Distant Cousin” is available from the publisher, iUniverse, and from Amazon.com

Celia Hayes is a freelance writer who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her own latest book, “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here, and more about her own writings is at her website, www.celiahayes.com.

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