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The Lesson

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  722 ratings  ·  171 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 ...more
Kindle Edition, 290 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 3.63  · 
Rating details
 ·  722 ratings  ·  171 reviews

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Sylvain Neuvel
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Thomas Wagner
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[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  ·  review of another edition
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
Amy Imogene Reads
Aliens and a discussion about colonialism? Sign me UP.

Thanks to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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. ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Emma Osborne
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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)
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" and
DJ Arruda
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jay O'Connell
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic book about aliens! With compelling characters, an underlying sense of dread, social commentary, and mystery! I sincerely hope there is a sequel.
Jessie Drew
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
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 ...more
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
Jill Criswell
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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!
DNF just before the 50% mark. Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC. I thought the premise was pretty interesting but the characters all fell very flat for me, and it seemed like 80% of the focus of the content was on the sexual desires/love lives of all the characters, with the fact that there is an alien invasion going on barely fleshed out. Maybe it got better in the second half but I couldn't make myself continue. I was also constantly distracted by the very low quality of the NetGalley-provided ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book, 2019
Enjoyed it. Listened to it twice but still found some holes. I wanted just a little bit more on why they were here.
Great narrators!
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I committed book-purchasing this Readercon, and the first book I sought out to purchase was Cadwell Turnbull's debut sci-fi novel The Lesson. I had skipped the book launch party at Trident a month or two because I had a planning meeting to go to and have been a bit steamed about it ever since (especially since the meeting derailed at the end, but that's another story). Although given what happened at Lyndsay Ely's book launch party at Trident my wallet is OK with me having skipped (I had ...more
Bruin Mccon
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Lesson is a remarkable, multilayered book.

There is no safety. We are all at risk. So says one of the main characters in this book—Mera. She’s an alien who has lived many lifetimes on Earth in various forms. During that time she has come to care deeply for humans and to pass as one most of the time. She represents the “compassionate” colonizer, one who believes she can save those being oppressed without understanding she is part of the problem.

It is only the living who suffer. Derrick is an
Ari Janoff
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The universe is bigger than you know. You are bigger than you know. There is no armor big enough to save you. Nowhere. Ever."

I really enjoyed this book! I knew I would like it because I love sci-fi and it calls to my already pretty political leanings. There was an intriguing lack of world building regarding the Ynaa, which gave the book more of a literary feel as opposed to pure sci-fi. Some of the chapters are shockingly violent and horrifying in the most brilliant, Bradbury-an way. I also
Jo Ladzinski
Listened to the audiobook

This isn't your everyday first contact novel. Taking place in the U.S. Virgin Islands, The Lesson tells the story of a community who meets an alien race called the Ynaa who quickly assimilate among them. Among our cast is a teacher, a pair of students, a divorcee, and other "boring" characters whose lives get turned upside by the new visitors.

I loved how Turnbull handled the community's curiosity and fear about their new visitors. Though human-looking and benevolent for
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***
Sep 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is more a commentary on colonialism than a sci fi novel. And that regard it is freaking brilliant. It definitely made me understand and sympathize with the plight of colonized people on a deeper level, and to internalize that super scary helpless feeling. At the same time, I was expecting more sci fi and it left a lot of loose ends that didn't feel wrapped up, so it wound up falling a little flat for me.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jean Hontz
The story of an alien 'invasion' of only the Virgin Islands.

Interesting concept, but awfully slow plot and I'm still not sure what the lesson was supposed to be.
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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.
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