Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair, by Malcom J. Brenner. Eyes Open Media. 220 pages. Trade paperback $14.95.
This new novel by Punta Gorda resident Brenner is largely entertaining, though at times a bit confusing. Mainly, it follows stretches in the life of Susie Louise McGonagle, a teacher whose life is for the most part drab and dispiriting. Her first husband, Mitch, is a real loser who doesn’t treat her well at all, eventually bringing another woman into the household as a kind of charity case that he takes pity on. But charity is not his real motive.
Susie carries around a lot of anger and almost no self-esteem. She is an easy mark for an abuser, and one like Mitch can sense her vulnerability. Her relationship with Mitch launches one of the novel’s several timelines, the earliest one. Susie needs a miracle to make her life worthwhile. Though she has children, she does not seem to be in love with mothering.
Soon after readers come to understand Susie’s despair, they find her experiencing the strangest of occurrences: the visit of an egg-shaped space vehicle, black and glittery, that has been damaged and cannot get on its way home. An elongated humanoid type with pointy ears, Mel-Khyor engages wih Susie. He easily breaks through the expected language barrier and asks for her help. Somehow, he senses that she has exactly the powers that are needed to repair the craft, aided by the great powers of the Ship itself.
Mr. Brenner creates an interstellar relationship that is at once eerie, intellectually stimulating, humorous, and romantic. His eye for real and imagined detail draws us into his largely improbable scenes. Susie’s very ordinariness is the hook. It’s easy to believe in her; thus, it’s easy to believe in her experience with Mel-Khyor, including their sexual experience. Who would believe in “Gulliver’s Travels” if Jonathan Swift didn’t first get us to believe in Gulliver?
The fact that much of what she experiences becomes lost to memory allows for the possibility that she has been dreaming or is under a spell of some kind. But all of it is not lost. Later in her life, after having chosen to continue her life on earth rather than join Mel-Khyor in his far-away home, she is perplexed by bits and pieces of what comes back to her.
So is her second husband, Toby, who uses his journalistic skills to attempt a verification of Susie’s unusual fragments of memory. Mr. Brenner’s treatment of Toby’s quest is one of the book’s most successful sub-stories. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the January 18, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the January 19 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Mel-Khyor