I guess you could call this a
"first contact" story. But it's not so much about a meeting or
dialog between two species. It's more about the reactions to an impending
first meeting. (As well as a view of humans and our society by way of what
they do as the meeting with aliens approaches.)
An astronomer detects a
message mixed in with a gamma ray burst. On the one hand, the message is in
English and simply says "We're coming". On the other hand,
scientists are able to determine the source is 1/10 light year away and is traveling
towards Earth at 99% of the speed of light. This leaves three months before it
All this brings reactions
from politicians and government, religious leaders, the general public and even
some underworld figures. Even before this news, the US has fallen further into
its conservative, combative and religiously strict trends. The President is a
real hawk, and traditionalist laws, including those outlawing homosexuality,
abound. Other trends have also continued, such as global warming.
The husband of the astronomer
who discovered the signal becomes blackmailed by an underworld figure for past
The reactions of people and
insights on society are conveyed as the story is told in a sequence of
different characters' points of view.
Meanwhile, a new world war
may be brewing in Europe. And the US President is preparing for war with the
aliens, anticipating them to be hostile.
Within this context, another
message is received from the aliens, insisting on details of how their landing
will take place. They display their capabilities by destroying one of Mars'
However, the actual landing
and related events is only a small fraction of the book. And the ending does
not improve the book.