The Alien Years

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In THE ALIEN YEARS, a science fiction novel from Robert Silverberg, the “Entities” land on Earth at several different points simultaneously. They make no demands of Earth—in fact, they refuse to even acknowledge anyone that tries to make contact with them, save for the few people they kidnap for short periods of time to apparently study.

Meanwhile, the whole of the Carmichael family moves out of Los Angeles and into a ranch home in the mountains to study the Entities themselves through contacts in the worldwide Resistance, determined to find a way to rid Earth of its alien guests. Time passes, mostly unfruitful, as each attack on the aliens by the Resistance is met with serious retaliations, including the release of the world’s biological warfare storage, resulting in the extermination of over half the human race.

Fifty-some years later, the world is a much different place: the human race has all but resigned to being nothing but employees of the Entities, with cooperation rewarded by food and shelter; the act of revolt--or even bad luck—results in death. A few humans have learned to communicate with the aliens through their intricate computer network, but a good many of these hackers have chosen to work for the aliens instead of against them. The self-contained Carmichael ranch, now nearly overrun by countless additions to the family, also has its share of computer hackers, including one renegade genius that has the capability of unveiling the last carefully-guarded secrets of the Entities.