This is a book about alien sex; and about marriage rites and emotions. Perhaps it’s just a basic allegory of the ill-fated lovers type; but it seems to offer more.  I’d hate to cast general aspersions on the genre as a whole, but Strangers feels far too sensitive a read to be true science fiction. There is some pretty predictable ‘colony of earthlings’ stuff, in which regular character types appear and perform, but the real meat of the book is the extended them of alien sex; the emotions, the pros and cons, and the damned unusual consequences of falling for an alien.

Science fiction usually becomes a bit boring when the point is too far pressed, or appears close to the surface, and I don’t think it does here. That is to say that there are obvious points being made, such as miscommunication between genders as well as many of the social problems of the 70s, such as interracial marriage, changing male-female relationships post-feminism, and the horrible difficulties of people refusing to deal directly with these issues. Yes, the allegory is there, but it’s never pushed in favour of the main chance, the story. This is the main balance in most science fiction, and a hard one to achieve; years of reading has shown me this.

A kind of hopelessness permeates the book, especially typified by the rather meaningless and unfulfilled life of the protagonist, an artist. This turns out to be quite addictive, and I think it was this ‘sad 70s’ tone that got me to the end. Once you’ve started out with this unfortunate character, and his emotional adventures with his alien love, it becomes hard, if not impossible to stop. What it means is that this novel feels like a downward slide, a downward, downward slide, to a sad ending, as sad as everything that has come so far.