In this winner of the BOA Short Fiction Prize, each story is centered around an encounter with the unexpected, exploring what it means to be an alien. With a nod to the dual meaning of "alien" as both foreigner and extraterrestrial, Osondu turns familiar science-fiction tropes and immigration narratives on their heads, blending one with the other to call forth a whirlwind of otherness.
Short and tightly written, each story presents a lesson that leaves the reader thinking deeply about themselves and how they relate to people from other cultures. Composed with humor and empathy for the subjects and readers, Alien Stories leverages the imaginative fun of science fiction to thoughtfully reflect on the experiences of those born outside of, but living, in America ... Part of the brilliance in Osondu’s stories is in showing how closely a person’s imagination may link the concepts of earthborn and extraterrestrial 'aliens' ... Alien Stories feels very aware of itself and of how to make meaningful ideas connect with a broad audience: the stories are accessible, but thought-provoking, with clarity and concision. In each brief piece, readers encounter tightly focused ideas that expand exponentially the more one thinks about the stories.
Alien Stories is a winking allegory that invites readers to look anew at foreignness and perhaps see something reflective in its unfamiliar sheen. Most of Osondu’s stories are feats of reduction: in order to achieve the feel of a fable, he frequently strips his stories’ necessary elements down to the bare minimum ... As if playing in a microcosmic sandbox, Osondu builds little worlds with just enough substance to snap together a resonant moment or a resounding message ... While some readers may find these stories repetitive and their minimality to appear underdeveloped, they’re the work of a writer in careful control of his prose. Independently, these stories read like fanciful parables, but together they commingle in sly layers. Tonally, Alien Stories smirks with the kooky erudition of vintage McSweeney’s. They’re thoughtful delights you’d find in a few pages of your favorite new literary journal, entertaining morsels that invite a laugh and a quick ponder. George Saunders often comes to mind ... While we might grapple through generalizations in search of a way to anchor these stories, Osondu skips past that comfort, and this is one of the collection’s most important clues. While deeply entrenched in themes of otherness, Osondu repeatedly finds ways to tell stories about humanity that transcend place and race, adrift in a space just beyond classification.
I recommend this book to anyone who feels like the alien or the outsider or anyone who wants to understand the alien’s point of view. Many of Osondu’s stories look at the aliens as guests, who are shown honor and respect. In a way, Osondu’s stories can be interpreted as mirroring how immigrants are treated compared to how they would like to be treated. Alien Stories is a creative way to tell the stories of outsiders trying to carve their place in a new world, a new home.