Review by Caroline Frechette.
Alex Binkley is an Ottawa-based journalist and author. His first novel, Humanity’s Saving Grace, is set in the not-so-distant future, when aliens make contact with Earth for the first time. The idea for this science-fiction story was a long time in the making: “(It) goes back to the 1970s and a slow night on the news desk at the Canadian Press bureau in Halifax. There was an AP story about the U.S. Air Force’s Project Bluebook which analyzed all the UFO sightings to that time. I had time to read the whole piece. The report said there were plausible explanations for more than 98% of them. That didn’t mean, it went on, that the others were UFOs just there was no explanation,” says Binkley.
“At the time, I thought, ‘What if a few of the sightings were ships from another world?’ What was curious is that sightings go back over many years. But Humanity’s Saving Grace didn’t come together at the time.” The missing detail turned out to be the unique take on the aliens themselves: the Beings, as they are called, are dinosaur-like creatures with telepathic powers, and have become so peaceful over the generations that they claim to need to ally with the humans to fight a threat to their home planet. Binkley says he got his idea for the being after visiting the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto in the 1990s: “I didn’t know that Dale Russell’s dinosauroid was on display. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had found my alien and the story began to take shape.”
Binkley has always been inspired by stargazing: “I remember canoe tripping as a kid and spending evenings watching the stars come out far from any artificial light. If you stare at the stars long enough you become overwhelmed by how many are out there. That’s just what you can see. Binoculars and telescopes show so many more. To me, there has to be someone else out there. That’s what the Beings became for me. A plausible life form.”
The result is a surprising, well-paced tale of science-fiction, with an original and diverse cast of characters, and enough references to other sci-fi stories to please any aficionado.
Fans of the book and the author are in luck: Alex Binkley is hard at work on a sequel called A Biot’s Odyssey, in which a biological robot and an actual robot search for their place in the galaxy. He is also working on at least four other stories, some of which are fantasy rather than science-fiction. “And like most writers,” he adds, “I have a whole lot of other ideas in the back of my head, which I don’t dare start writing until the above are finished.
Humanity’s Saving Grace is available at Books on Beechwood and Perfect Books in Ottawa, and through major online sellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in ebook and paperback formats. You can read more about Alex Binkley’s works on his website, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.