Susie Louise McGonagle, the heroine of Malcolm J. Brenner’s new novel Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair, is an ordinary woman leading a humdrum existence until something extraordinary happens: a spaceship crashes in her back yard (or does it?) and she falls in love with the surviving humanoid alien, who coincidentally happens to be named after a character from Medieval folklore. Seventeen years later, Susie’s second husband, a reporter, tries to figure out if this unbelievable story is proof of alien life, or the fantasies of a bored and desperate woman who was trapped at the time in a loveless marriage to her first husband, a philandering jerk.
Four time lines are woven together into one seamless and entertaining narrative that carries the reader from 1978 to 2004, from the mountains of Colorado to the rings of Saturn and beyond.
Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair is now available as a trade paperback from Amazon.com or an audio book through Audible and other suppliers: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692775528
“Raw, edgy, lots of twists and turns! This book will keep you reading. Four out of five stars.” – Cay, Amazon.com
“Clear your calendar before you start this book, because you won’t want to put it down until the end. Five stars!” – M. Van Doren, Amazon.com
“The story is sci-fi, romance, and intrigue all rolled into one enjoyable plot-twisting read. Brenner is an author deserving far more recognition in the literary world. Do yourself a favor and buckle up for the ride! Highly recommended!” – Michael Modjeski, Amazon.com
“Mr. Brenner creates an interstellar relationship that is at once eerie, intellectually stimulating, humorous and romantic. His eye for real and imagined detail draws us into his largely improbable scenes.” – Phil Jason, Florida Weekly.
Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair
by Malcolm J. Brenner.
Eyes Open Media. 220 pages.
Trade paper-back, $14.95
Audio book available.
This new novel by Punta Gorda resident Malcolm J. Brenner is largely entertaining, though at times a bit confusing. Mainly, it follows stretches in the life of Susie Louise McGonagall, a teacher whose life is for the most part drab and dispiriting. Her ﬁrst husband, Mitch, is a real loser who doesn’t treat her well at all, eventually bringing another woman into the household as a kind of charity case that he takes pity on. But charity is not his real motive.
Susie carries around a lot of anger and almost no self-esteem. She’s an easy mark for an abuser, and one like Mitch can sense her vulnerability. Her relationship with Mitch launches one of the novel’s several timelines, the earliest one. Susie needs a miracle to make her life worthwhile. Though she has children, she does not seem to be in love with mothering.
Soon after readers come to understand Susie’s despair, they ﬁnd her experiencing the strangest of occurrences: the visit of an egg-shaped space vehicle, white and glittery, that has been damaged and cannot get on its way home. Mel-Khyor, an elongated humanoid type with pointy ears, engages with Susie, easily breaking through the expected language barrier and asking for her help. Somehow, he senses that she has exactly the powers that are needed to repair the craft, aided by the great powers of the Ship itself.
Mr. Brenner creates an interstellar relationship that is at once eerie, intellectually stimulating, humorous and romantic. His eye for real and imagined detail draws us into his largely improbable scenes. Susie’s very ordinariness is the hook. It’s easy to believe in her; thus, it’s easy to believe in her experience with Mel-Khyor, including their sexual experience. Who would believe in Gulliver’s Travels if Jonathan Swift didn’t first get us to believe in Gulliver?
The fact that much of what Susie experiences becomes lost to memory allows for the possibility that she has been dreaming or is under a spell of some kind. But all of it is not lost. Later in her life, after having chosen to continue on Earth rather than join Mel-Khyor in his far-away home, she is perplexed by bits and pieces of what comes back to her. So is her second husband, Toby, who uses his journalistic skills to attempt a verification of Susie’s unusual fragments of memory. Mr. Brenner’s treatment of Toby’s quest is one of the book’s most successful sub-stories.
The author covers a lot of Earth-time, populating his story with a large cast of characters, not all of who are central to the Susie narrative. He allows us to enter the “what-if” mindset regarding alien landings that are part of American lore, especially in the western states where this novel’s action takes place. Large government installations, ominous power plants, forested areas that seem to cloak important secrets, strange doings on Indian reservations and off-beat religious communities (Wicca) are part of the atmospheric brew that Mr. Brenner serves.
The book’s four alternating timelines develop segments or perspectives running from 1978 to 2004. For the most part, Mr. Brenner’s transitions from one timeline to another work smoothly. However, on several occasions I found myself disoriented by the handling of this technique. I had to page back to where the reintroduced timeline had been set aside, and even after doing that it was difficult to push forward and re-enter that plot stream.
Mel-Khyor provides an interesting mixture of moods and offers an astute engagement with issues of culture, class and our capacity for dealing with difference. Mr. Brenner has fun with his premise by not taking it too seriously. This stance allows the reader to share the fun.
About the author
Malcolm J. Brenner is the author of Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover and Growing Up in the Orgone Box: Secrets of a Reichian Childhood. His professional background is in journalism and investigative reporting, and he has written for Penthouse and Future Life as well as for magazines and newspapers.
— Phil Jason, Ph.D., United States Naval Academy professor emeritus of English, is a poet, critic and freelance writer with 20 books to his credit, including several studies of war literature and a creative writing text. firstname.lastname@example.org