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The Lesson

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3.58  ·  Rating details ·  3,076 ratings  ·  578 reviews
THE LESSON explores the nature of belief, the impact of colonialism, and asks how far are we willing to go for progress? Breaking ground as one of the first science fiction novels set in the Virgin Islands, THE LESSON is not only a thought-provoking literary work, delving deeply into allegorical themes of colonialism, but also vividly draws the community of Charlotte Amali ...more
Hardcover, 286 pages
Published June 18th 2019 by Blackstone Publishing
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Katherine If you're more interested in the author's politics than the text, then maybe you'd be better off choosing books by people who are decidedly not woke. …moreIf you're more interested in the author's politics than the text, then maybe you'd be better off choosing books by people who are decidedly not woke. I'm sure Bill O'Reilly has something new out.(less)

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Average rating 3.58  · 
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 ·  3,076 ratings  ·  578 reviews


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K.J. Charles
Jun 07, 2020 added it
Shelves: sff
This. Was. Terrific. Set in the Virgin Islands, the premise is that aliens arrive to do some research and give humanity all sorts of amazing tech in exchange for their stay. But they stay on an inhabited island. They look like people, mix with people, drink and have sex with people...and if anyone bothers or threatens them, they kill brutally and immediately. It's just their culture.

Obviously this is about colonialism--one of the characters is even writing a book about the subject and we go int
...more
Sylvain Neuvel
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Cadwell Turnbull paints a stunningly intricate portrait of humanity, capturing hopes and dreams, flaws and failings with remarkable depth and texture. The Lesson is a blast to read and a meaningful exploration of the bearing of colonialism and the perils of human ambition.
Gail (The Knight Reader)
I absolutely LOVED this book!

I was so thrilled that The Lesson was set in the Caribbean I immediately reached out to the Publishers and author to review it in advance of its June 2019 release. I was so happy that I did!

The Lesson is set in the U.S. Virgin Islands and is a story that unfolds around different islanders who live amicably among The Ynaa, Earth's newest visitors who just happen to be alien lifeforms. The story also follows one of the alien leaders, Mera, on her mission to bridge the
...more
Thomas Wagner
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
[3.5 stars] First contact stories in science fiction have been used for decades to explore cultural and anthropological themes. More than anything, I would say SF writers use alien contact as a kind of emotional tonic, a way to relieve humanity’s existential distress at the very real likelihood we are either alone in the universe, or so far away from any other advanced, spacefaring species that contact with them will be effectively impossible before both we and the aliens become, in the natural ...more
Jessica Woodbury
An interesting new take on the alien invasion novel. Ultimately I wanted more from it, I wanted to dive deeper and learn more and build the world, so the 3 stars is mostly that.

THE LESSON does the opposite of what a big Hollywood movie would do and that is very much a compliment. It skips pretty much entirely over the moments of first contact with aliens. Instead it sets the stage and then we jump forward several years to a kind of stasis, to examine what the world is like now. The Ynaa can look
...more
JasonA
Aliens have made first contact in the Virgin Islands. Amazingly, they look just like humans and come bearing gifts of advanced medicine and clean energy. All they ask in return is that they be able to hang out for awhile to conduct some unspecified scientific research. Sure, they look human, but something seems just a bit off with the way they move, almost like they're not used to their own bodies. The locals immediately distrust the alien presence and see them as just the latest in a long line ...more
Gabi
May 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
I get what the author was trying to do here. The alien race Ynaa invading and taking over the Virgin Islands is an obvious comment to colonialism and an overall interesting idea. So the basis for a good story is there, I just don't feel as though the author truly pulled it off.

Many parts of the novel were confusing and disjointed, and didn't quite fit back together for the reader in the way the author likely believed they would. Another thing that really disconnected the story from the reader wa
...more
Justine
Jul 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, 2021-read
First off, the description for this book doesn't really describe what it's about. Or rather, it sort of describes it, but sets it up in a way that doesn't really give you a good idea of what actually happens or when.

This is a heavily character driven story about the intertwined lives of people living in the aftermath of an alien arrival/occupation. That dichotomy of thought plays a large role in how the people in the tight island community of St. Thomas feel about life alongside the Ynaa.

This is
...more
Starlah
Mar 02, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, 2021
3.5 stars

Trigger Warnings: violence, death, cancer

This is such an interesting and fresh take on the first contact trope in alien science fiction stories. However, this book is not as much about aliens as I thought it would be going into it. The set up for this is 5 years prior, an Alien race known as the Ynaa arrives at the US Virgin Islands and have been living with the people there ever since. They are on a research mission and while there they have offered up their advanced technology to the
...more
Monica
That one was weird. More horror than scifi. (view spoiler)...or something... it could be that I totally misunderstood the plot...

3.5 Stars
...more
Nicholas Smith
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My love for alien invasion novels has become a life long passion. Over the years, I’ve added many favorites to my personal bookshelf and now I will be adding another. It’s rare to pick up a debut as unique as The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull. This is a deeply emotional story of suspense about an alien race that has traveled to the US Virgin Islands with seemingly unknown intentions. As the plot slowly unfolds through the POV of multiple complex characters, Turnbull sets the stage for a revelation ...more
BookOfCinz
And they didn't invade. They arrived...

The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull is unlike anything I have ever read before and I cannot stop talking about it and I didn't want it to end.

Set on the U.S. Virgin Islands, we meet the members of the community of Charlotte Amalie-like most Islanders, they are pretty laid back, but all living complicated lives. Things get even more complicated when one day the sky opens up and an alien ship docks close to the island. The five hundred Ynaa came in "peace" an
...more
Lelia Nebeker
A speculative alien invasion novel set in the Virgin Islands--and it has a large contingent of female characters who actually do things! I know that sounds like a low bar, but I really did admire the dynamic characters Turnbull created. The story is well paced, and I loved how the aliens (who inhabit humanoid bodies) were incorporated into society, or rather, how they affect society. Honestly, this book was right up my alley, and will definitely be recommending it to everyone upon its release. A ...more
Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany)
The Lesson is a literary take on an alien invasion story, set in the Virgin Islands. It largely centers Black characters, local culture, and touches on the history of slavery and colonization. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but explores some interesting ideas. It uses the aliens as a metaphor for colonization, where they are both benevolent and brutally violent.

If you're looking for a book that spends most of it's time on describing and understanding the aliens, you aren't going to get it
...more
2TReads
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
A great read!

Set in the Caribbean, Turnbull has given us an alien-human story that is character driven and tackles big themes. What defines an invasion, what becomes of the invaded, and how will the interactions change the landscape as we know it? It is a story of family, friendship, belonging, violence, community, and resilience.

The beauty and strength of Caribbean people is stamped all over this one.

Turnbull's prose is practically liquid the way it flows across the page, creating such a vivid
...more
Oleksandr Zholud
This is a near future first contact SF novel from an author from the Virgin islands.

The story starts a few days before the contact and acquaints the reader with main protagonists: teenage boy and girl, Derrek and Partice, who grew together and now in an awkward stage where they are unsure what they feel toward each other. Derrek is a SF fan. Partice’s father Jackson Paige is a teacher with the middle-age crisis: they grew distant with his wife while his former student (Lisa), who writes stories
...more
Lauren
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sign me up for character-driven scifi, always and forever. 🙌

Within the first few pages, I knew this one would be a winner, and from there, it just kept pleasing with the twists and turns.

The 'first contact' narrative of other alien invasion stories and films is immediately re-entered to the US Virgin Islands, specifically St. Thomas. A closely linked network of characters witnesses the alien's arrival in the sky, and each has different stories, beliefs, and effects of the event.

Turnbull keeps th
...more
Jypsy
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I wasn't sure what to expect from The Lesson. Alien invasion I suppose? Regardless, I was lost from the beginning. I couldn't relate to the characters or the plot. Unfortunately, this story fell flat for me. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in for an arc in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Char
I didn't care much for this. I'm about 3 hours in and still don't care, so I'm done. On to the next! ...more
Kim
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it
The first two-thirds of the book were amazing! But unfortunately towards the end of the book I was just trying to get through it.

Mera was my favorite character—she was so complex and well thought out! I could have read more about her, her past and beyond that. Lee was another amazing character that I could have read more about! However, on the other end of the spectrum, Patrice was my least favorite and one that got on my nerves.

There are some great moments in this book! But those are fleeting.
...more
Jay O'Connell
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm not going to re-cap the blurb or give a synopsis.

It's classic SF, about first contact, and humanity's struggle with a more technologically developed species. The book is informed by the authors background, the history of his birthplace.

History most of us know little about.

In it, all these half century old tropes spring to life on the page, vital and new and infused with fresh meaning, enacted by real characters we feel like we know.

There's stuff about colonialism I knew in my head, that I no
...more
Becky
I'm really torn on what to rate this one, so, as per the norm, I will figure it out as I ramble. Be forewarned - I may delve into a bit of spoilery territory. Proceed at your own risk.

I don't remember how I discovered this book, but I do know that the cover would have immediately snagged my attention no matter where it was. LOVE the cover. I may have requested it based on that alone, but more likely it was the fact that just a handful of words into the book description, it mentions that this bo
...more
DJ
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In Turnbull's debut novel he gives us a compelling and engaging character driven story that focuses on the humanity despite the backdrop of an alien presence. Through the intricately woven, yet distinct viewpoints of a family's already present discord compounded by the aliens’ arrival, he gives us a diverse cast who all deal with their personal traumas in their own ways, yet together link an emotionally captivating look at how change shapes us inside and out. His rendering of St. Thomas is visce ...more
Ryan
Sep 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: african-sff
A very grounded and human story of aliens colonising Earth. Pretty unremarkable for the genre despite the Virgin Islands setting.

Three and one half stars rounded down.
Emma Osborne
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I adore this book - it deals with such big questions, and yet feels so intimate. The family dynamics are rich and complex, and the Ynaa are fascinating in their similarities and differences to humans.

A must-read.

(Disclosure: Cadwell and I studied together at Clarion West)
Andy
Oct 31, 2022 rated it really liked it
What a book. My brain is still trying to decipher that ending!
Madeleine
Mar 12, 2022 rated it really liked it
The Lesson is first contact sci-fi that is not flashy or action-packed: it is thoughtful and deliberate, with big emotional payoff. Character-driven and humanity-focused, it grapples with the social impact and existential trauma of invasion and colonialism through intimate life portraits. The author grounds the narrative in deceptively simple depictions of daily life in an island community choking under alien occupation, over echoing layers of Caribbean history. It's one of those stories where I ...more
Bandit
Oct 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been looking for a good science fiction read to diversify my reading diet and this certainly fit the bill. What usually makes science fiction good or great for me is originality and social relevance and this novel delivers on both accounts, especially the latter. Originality wise…ok, it did remind me very much of V, the recent ish tv show. A quiet first contact sort of thing, a steady but not overly exciting or explosive alien invasion, where a race of extraterrestrials known as Ynaa come t ...more
Jessie Drew
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a treasure

4.5 stars if I could. I loved every inch of this sci-fi tale! Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys this genre. The story is unique and has world building without making the reader feel overwhelmed. My only trouble was that because there are many characters it was tough at times to keep up with who’s who. I hope the author has more books to follow up with on this one. #seriesplease
Janelle
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book about aliens! With compelling characters, an underlying sense of dread, social commentary, and mystery! I sincerely hope there is a sequel.
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Book to the Future!: August 2020: The Lesson 5 17 Aug 10, 2020 08:11PM  

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Hello, I'm Cadwell Turnbull, author of the science fiction novel The Lesson and No Gods, No Monsters (Book One of The Convergence Saga).

My short fiction has appeared in The Verge, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Asimov’s Science Fiction. My short story “Loneliness is in Your Blood” was selected for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018. My short story "Jump" was selected for the Year's
...more

Articles featuring this book

  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
178 likes · 30 comments
“He had mistaken his place in this story. The realization filled him with both terror and a little relief, the relief faint but present. He hoped the feeling would someday give him a measure of peace.” 1 likes
“It is done, then," Okaios said. "I supposed this was better than the alternative."

The sadness in his voice reminded Mera of an owner who has lost his prize pet. "No," she said. "A better alternative would have been no one dying."

"Then how would they learn?" Okaios asked.”
1 likes
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