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Illegal Alien

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,169 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
When a disabled spaceship enters Earth's atmosphere, seven members of the advanced Tosok race are welcomed by the world. Then a popular scientist is murdered, and all evidence points to one of the Tosoks. Now, an alien is tried in a court of law-and there may be far more at stake than accounting for one human life.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 27th 2011 by Ace (first published December 1997)
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(showing 1-30)
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Ben Babcock
In Illegal Alien, Robert J. Sawyer manages to convince me that aliens from Alpha Centauri have come to Earth and need our help repairing their spaceship. He fails to convince me that the California District Attorney could try one of those aliens for first degree murder.

Sawyer recognizes the improbability of such an event, because he doesn't even try to justify it. The president mumbles something about the federal government not being able to interfere with the case because the state has jurisdic
Aug 14, 2012 La_mariane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
My thoughts :
This novel is clearly sci-fi : first contact with aliens, can you get something more obviously sci-fi? And yet, it is more an exploration (and a critique) of the US justice system. The outsider points of view helps, because the lawyer has to explain everything to his alien client, Hask. It shows the unfair aspects of the justice system, even if, in the end, Sawyer's message is not entirely pessimistic : we finally learn the truth about Clete's death. I really liked this aspect of th
Feb 15, 2014 Marrella rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mankind makes first contact with an alien civilization when a space ship is stranded in our solar system. The Tosoks come from Alpha Centauri, which is about four light-years away. One of the eight astronauts was killed in a tragic accident when he tried to repair the damage the ship sustained crossing the Kuiper Belt, an asteroid belt on the outer rim of the solar system. The other seven Tosoks are received on Earth with open arms. It looks like they have to spend two years on our planet until ...more
Dec 21, 2012 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I really liked “Illegal Alien.” It was written at the time of the O.J. Simpson murder trial and Sawyer cannot resist mentioning it throughout the book. This is fine, as it allows the author some flexibility of plot and pacing: an old lawyer who has won his share of cases, Mr. Dale Rice, a black man who knew Martin Luther King, Jr. and at 70+ years young gets the chance of a century – to defend an alien accused of the murder of Calhoun, a PBS news/astronomer who was the first to step aboard an al ...more
Oct 24, 2014 Pants rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book was shades of Orson Scott Card, just sans the thinly veiled preachy undertone. So the better parts of OSC's work.

This was primarily mystery/legal drama with SciFi flavour. As seems to be common thus far, Sawyer is an incurable idealist. Though since I was raised with one of my parents being a Trekkie, there's definitely an appeal here.
Feb 07, 2017 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Even if I forgave the glaring problems with the premise, I still can't help but compare the concepts presented with the ideas presented in the "Three Body Problem" by he Chinese writer Liu Cixin. Well to be fair, the almost identical concept wasn't presented until towards the end of the story. Though it wasn't quote central to the story, it was the world narrative was built upon.

The whole of it all centered around a court case trying an alien from Alpha Centuari for murder. Suspending my disbel
Not sure why I picked up this audio book, if I’d known it was essentially a courtroom procedural I doubt I would have bothered. Just not my cup of tea. Even the fact that the court case dealt with aliens from other planets couldn’t keep this from being a boring recounting of witness after witness telling bits and pieces of a murder plot. Just boring. I finished it about a week ago and even now cannot recall how it ended.
Yasuo Itoh
Feb 22, 2017 Yasuo Itoh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Doug Lewars
This book was very well written but I found it a little flat. Robert Sawyer is a hard-core science fiction writer meaning that he pays close attention to making the science accurate. This is certainly to his credit and I appreciate his efforts; however, for me, the story didn't quite work. I believe it certainly would work for people who really appreciate the science aspects of science-fiction.
Oct 23, 2016 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it, sci-fi
3.5 stars. I really liked the first 3/4 of the book, but the ending felt a bit like it came out of nowhere.
Jessica Tropp
Nov 19, 2016 Jessica Tropp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another great Robert J sawyer book: a sci-fi legal thriller
Nov 11, 2016 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting take. Part sci-fi, part legal procedural.
Aug 09, 2014 Ash rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Utterly unremarkable, but not bad enough to warrant 2 stars. This is one of those books that sells itself on a premise but does very little with it.

The author seems to think that characterization consists solely of giving a precise physical description of a character, then giving said character the same standardized dialogue as the rest. Indeed, the physical descriptions are often comically out of place:

Wills stood five-eight and weighed maybe a hundred and fifty-five pounds. Frank noticed he wo
Sep 27, 2015 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At its heart Illegal Alien is a story about aliens arriving and pushing both sides to re-examine their beliefs about divine creation and debates over evolution while one of the visitors undergoes a John Grisham style courtroom drama having been accused of the murder of an American scientist in their entourage. Stranded on the planet thanks to some damage their ship underwent entering the solar system, the president’s own science advisor enlists the assistance of the country’s top rights lawyer t ...more
May 21, 2016 Garrett rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I cracked open Illegal Alien and from the start wasn't impressed with the style of writing—it was boring and flat with "alot[sic]" of errors in grammar and punctuation.What stood out to me was how monotone the book felt,specifically during the trial.None of the characters felt likeable or notable; they were either stereotypes or given inadequate character development and therefore could only be considered shallow.

Despite the aforementioned flaws, I was able to keep reading for the sake of findin
Oneiric Moor
Aug 20, 2016 Oneiric Moor rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
È il classico romanzetto da spiaggia o attesa in aeroporto, semplice e veloce. Sembra una puntata di Law & Order che per rendere più interessante la fase del dibattimento ha scelto come imputato un alieno. Faccio fatica a definire fantascienza una storiella così, i dialoghi sono men che banali, gli alieni ingenui e pittoreschi, gli umani stereotipati. Abbiamo il classico procuratore che monta il caso perché vuole farsi eleggere governatore, l'avvocato difensore di colore noto per le cause su ...more
Apr 29, 2013 Ippino rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantascienza
Ero indeciso se dare tre stelle oppure quattro.
Alla fine ho optato per tre, poichè questo romanzo è gradevole, ma presenta i soliti difetti di tutti gli altri di Sawyer: personaggi che sembrano principali che spariscono nel nulla, colpi di scena forzati, finale assurdo.
Il primo difetto trova esempio nel personaggio di Montgomery Ajax: pagine sprecate a descrivere lui e le sue ambizioni, e poi PUF! sparito nel nulla.
Per il secondo difetto occorre leggere il romanzo.
L'ultimo difetto lo avevo già r
Michael Hirsch
I just finished reading "Illegal Alien" by Robert J. Sawyer. It is another first contact story. The aliens come to earth needing help to fix their spacecraft. They are willing to trade technical knowledge for the help. Everything is going well until a human scientist is brutally murdered and am alien is the prime suspect.

I enjoyed reading this book, but found it a little dissatisfying. As with some other books by Sawyer, he relied a bit too much on having some rule or law of physics, or somethin
Sergio Frosini
Dec 21, 2015 Sergio Frosini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un classico dei gialli, il legal thriller che fa pensare subito a Perry Mason; solo che questo è in salsa fantascientifica e ben strutturato, con la classica tensione delle prove a carico dell'imputato che si accumulano senza pietà, con un colpo di scena finale e tutti i parafernalia del genere .
Con un bel paragrafo che smonta l'idiozia tanto cara agli arteriocattolici antievoluzionisti sull'occhio umano "troppo complesso per essere frutto dell'evoluzione". Anzi. L'occhio è la migliore prova de
this review :
I wouldn't give it two stars as this reviewer did but I pretty much agree.

The main thing I remember about this book is that Sawyer introduces truly alien aliens then as he usually does makes them pretty much human. Good concept: the aliens believe that because their god is Omniscient and omnipotent , anything they do must be OK because otherwise wouldn't god have stopped them? I like the reasoning but as a matter of practicality how can a soc
Dodie Reed
Mar 11, 2012 Dodie Reed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"When a disabled spaceship enters the Earth's atmosphere, fear is quickly replaced with awe. Seven members of the incredibly advanced Tosok race are welcomed by the world within open arms and the people of Earth put their best face forward, Then a popular scientist is found murdered. All evidence points to one of the Tosoks, For the first time, an alien is tried before humans in a court of law. And in the unprecedented trial, where two cultures clash there may be far more at stake than accountin ...more
Brian MacPherson
Jul 03, 2010 Brian MacPherson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very different book to go through, a genre that is rarely touched on: scifi legal drama. As such, it may not be everyone's cup of tea...

Still, his writing style is engaging, his material (scientific, as well as legal) seems as well researched as with any of his books, and his storyline creates a positive direction that gives you some nice variety from the post-apocalypses, cyberpunks, and other cliches of the genre. While it's difficult to believe anyone would attempt to prosecute a v
I think I'm about ready to give up on Sawyer, although its possible that Ive just chosen poorly. If John Grisham tried to write a science fiction novel this is probably what you would get. While the idea of an alien courtroom drama is somewhat intriguing the novel spends most of its time trying to be a metaphor for the OJ Simpson Trials. Which would be okay if the author didn't feel a need to have every character say "Hey, this reminds me of the Simpson trials". There are some interesting ideas ...more
Jun 25, 2011 kvon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't finish the whole book. I read the beginning, through the murder and up to the trial, then skipped to the ending. The others in my book group liked it well enough. I went into it with prior dislike of Sawyer's work (Rollover and Hominids). I couldn't suspend my disbelief that on a first contact we would arrest an alien, instead of sequestering then away from civilians until we knew that they understood our laws. And although there were aggressively ethnic characters, the default was stil ...more
Matteo Pellegrini
Sep 26, 2013 Matteo Pellegrini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantascienza

Quando un'astronave entra nell'atmosfera terrestre alla paura iniziale si sostituisce subito la meraviglia. Con il primo contatto fra terrestri e alieni, sette membri della razza dei Tosok, di incredibile intelligenza, vengono accolti a braccia aperte dal mondo intero. Ma un noto scienziato umano in contatto con il gruppo viene improvvisamente trovato morto, mutilato da un'arma misteriosa, e tutte le prove sembrano condannare uno di loro. Cercando di evitare un incidente planetario, gli Stati Un

Jul 15, 2013 Keli rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't get very far before I decided I was done with this book. It seemed to be the author examining the U.S. legal system in the wake of the O.J. Simpson trial. But there are good ways to do that and bad ways to do that. This was a bad way. I found the characters flat and stereotypical. The long exposition about the legal system were boring. And I'm sure that I would have found more to criticize, but I never finished it. It's a shame, really. It could have been an interesting subject, especia ...more
Sean Randall
I thought this was a short story, and was pleasantly surprised to find a full-blown novel waiting for me instead. Courtroom drama has never quite been my thing, but this was sedate and quiet enough that I enjoyed it, despite the overwhelmingly stentorian black message and the by now standard promulgation of canadian superiority.I thought this was a short story, and was pleasantly surprised to find a full-blown novel waiting for me instead. Courtroom drama has never quite been my thing, but this ...more
Jenny T
Jan 24, 2013 Jenny T rated it liked it
A First Contact situation between Earth and the alien Tosoks turns sour when one of the Tosoks is charged with murder and tried in a human court of law. What follows is an interesting courtroom drama and some pretty good science fiction.

This book was originally published in the '90s, and it shows, with MANY references to the O.J. Simpson trial. And some of the emphasis on racial issues seemed a bit out of place. But the book was entertaining, and the aliens well-developed. A light, quick read, a
Sep 16, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On a little bit of a Robert Sawyer binge and re-read this over the past week. Nice, tightly written courtroom drama with well constructed aliens involved. Would have loved a bit more character development (I don't think we hear that one of the main character's has a daughter until more than 3/4 through the book) but the "whodunnit" aspect keeps the story moving at a nice pace and makes for a compelling read.
Aaron (Typographical Era)
Sawyer has a knack for building believable and fun sci-fi worlds and he certainly knows how to tell a story that fueled by human emotion, but here I was left a little underwhelmed. He executes the idea fine, but I wish there was more of an emotional investment one way or the other for the reader. I mostly felt like I was watching court TV for the bulk of the book and I wasn't really invested in either side.
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Robert J. Sawyer is one of Canada's best known and most successful science fiction writers. He is the only Canadian (and one of only 7 writers in the world) to have won all three of the top international awards for science fiction: the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and the 2006 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan.
Robert Sawyer grew up in
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