Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Lesson” as Want to Read:
The Lesson
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Lesson

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  1,417 ratings  ·  293 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
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Lesson, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,417 ratings  ·  293 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Lesson
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
DJ Arruda
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
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
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.
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)
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
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.
Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I heard about The Lesson when I looked up Arisia 2020 guest of honor Cadwell Turnbull, and I was excited to read it. Aliens establishing a secretive research mission on the US Virgin Islands is such a cool premise. I wanted to discover why they came, and see how they would interact with the human residents. Sadly, I have mixed feelings about the actual book.

The Lesson is about an alien race Ynaa arriving in the US Virgin Islands in 2019. The Ynaa motivations are not clear, but they seem to be se
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Lesson focuses on a bunch of very human, very relatable characters, on the fault lines of an alien invasion and/or friendly visit in the Virgin Isles.

It's a situation that's both very tense, and very gradual. It's a monumental event, that squeezes its cast into a strange new reality's most mundane situations -- coming to terms with a one-sided divorce, choosing a local university or getting the heck away from home, convincing the boss to come out and have a drink; they're all thrown in sharp
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
3.5 stars rounded up to 4. The story was fast paced and interesting and lately it takes a lot to grip my interest. The ending was unexpected, too many loose ends.
Dec 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I searched for this book because of an afro-futuristic & solorpunk article I read that mentions this; THE LESSON has neither of these components and I really think it ruined my ability to enjoy it completely.

As always, I listened to this on audio and LOVED it. There are two narrators who alternate between the characters and it was fantastic.

My only problem was that there were so many characters, and the book had 3rd person multiple perspectives that I had a hard time remembering who everyone wa
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very pleasant surprise. It's science fiction, it's about an alien invasion, but the facts of that event are dealt with in an off-handed way. It's more about people coping with the event than the event itself. The individual story threads themselves are compelling, and I loved the insight of everyday life in the USVI instead of the tourist viewpoint one usually gets in exotic settings. Loved the local focus as opposed to a global perspective. The dialogue and internal monologue are especially w ...more
Jill Criswell
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully-written, thought-provoking novel full of flawed characters who were lost long before the aliens landed, and fueled by a rich sense of place. The author paints a portrait of what it means to be a local in modern-day St. Thomas, as well as giving poignant glimpses into the island's colonialist past. Successfully straddles the line between literary and speculative fiction in ways that are reminiscent of Octavia Butler's "Kindred" and Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go."
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5*: This is an impressive science fiction debut about the horrors of colonialism. I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a fresh voice in SFF!
Sarah Rigg
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poc-authors
I picked up this book because I'd heard it was the only published "first contact" novel set in the Virgin Islands. I was, frankly, not expecting much based on the bland title, "The Lesson." But I got sucked in quickly and this kept me breathlessly waiting to find out what would happen to my characters throughout. I listened to this via audiobook which was read by two narrators, one a woman and one a man, and I think that worked really well for that format.

Turnbull spends about the first 15 perce
Jeffrey James
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stunning debut novel. If I hadn't the need to sleep I would have been compelled to finish in one sitting. Instead, it took two.

The novel is a refreshingly original take on an alien contact story. Fans of Childhood's End and the like will find familiar beats, but nothing about Turnbull's book is as simple as a mere modernization of classic tropes. He brings us a bright cast of characters in a new setting, each dealing with the appearance of charitable but ambiguously-motivated aliens in their o
3 stars

It's okay and fairly entertaining for a Sci-Fi but there are so many undeveloped characters and I am still trying to figure out what the actual "Lesson" is.

This is the 3rd book I got approved by Blackstone Publishing and I expected more. I guess this is not the kind of Sci-Fi I was expecting.


*** I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review***
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Book to the Future!: August 2020: The Lesson 5 14 Aug 10, 2020 08:11PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Vanished Birds
  • The Future of Another Timeline
  • Sisters of the Vast Black
  • Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water
  • Riot Baby
  • The Last Astronaut
  • The Light Brigade
  • A Song for a New Day
  • To Be Taught, If Fortunate
  • The Deep
  • The City We Became (Great Cities #1)
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War
  • Sea Change
  • Providence
  • Finna
  • Wanderers
  • Famous Men Who Never Lived
  • Escaping Exodus (Escaping Exodus, #1)
See similar books…
Hello, I'm Cadwell Turnbull, author of the science fiction novel The Lesson.

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 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019.

Articles featuring this book

Science fiction and fantasy have spawned some of the most imaginative plots and settings in existence. Makes sense, given that these genres are...
245 likes · 100 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“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.” 0 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.”
More quotes…