Author: David Hoffer
Author Twitter: @DavidHoffer14)
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Genre: First Contact / Military/ Techno Thriller
Word Count: 81,200

David Hoffer's Melody is a contemporary first contact thriller that kept my pulse racing with its non-stop pace. Despite its strengths and weaknesses, it remains a thoroughly enjoyable tale, even if some aspects left me wanting more.

The plot is engrossing and fast-paced, almost to a fault. In fact, the pace is so swift that early chapters struggle to delve deep enough into the characters. The rapidity of the plot can also feel implausible, such as a full-fledged government investigation kick-starting within a week or two on a single NASA scientist's assertion (the head of JPL, but still—I've worked for a government contractor, and nothing moves that fast in such large organizations). I often found myself wishing the plot would slow down just a hair to provide more detailed descriptions of some events. Instead, potentially dramatic scenes were relegated to passing comments, which was slightly disappointing.

Gripes about pacing aside, I enjoyed the majority of this book. The author set up an intriguing mystery around the main character's past and cleverly wove it into the main narrative. The communication of this mystery was crystal clear as well, never leaving me confused, only looking forward to the next revelation.

The two POV characters were both well-written. Early on, I struggled to connect with them, but their stories are tightly interwoven and provided enough interpersonal drama to keep me engaged. Steven, particularly, shines through with his compassionate consideration for his wife, always thoughtful of her feelings and striving to mend their relationship.

One character, however, felt a bit stale and clichéd: the General. This character archetype—omnipresent in the modern day first contact books I read for this competition—was predictably positioned as a counterpoint to the idealistic scientist striving for knowledge. I suppose it's realistic that such a figure would take command in these first contact scenarios, but nothing about how he was presented in this book felt fresh to me.

Finally, I found the book's complex scientific concepts well-handled, especially when dealing with alien technology. Hoffer's ability to simplify and clearly present his ideas had me guessing at the mechanics of the plausible-sounding tech. It was satisfying that my prediction ended up pretty close to what was revealed at the end, which says less about the book being predictable and more about me reading too many books about particle physics. All this to say, the science part of this science-fiction book was very well done.

Overall, Melody offers an exhilarating ride alongside characters I was rooting for until the very end. While its pacing might be too fast for those seeking deep character development, Hoffer's ability to weave together mystery, science, and humanity makes it a worthwhile read.

My Score: 7.5 / 10

/* Note: I'll be keeping my review score hidden until the rest of Team can announce their scores as well. This review reflects only my personal opinion, not the opinion of the entire team. */

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