For five years the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands have lived with the Ynaa, a race of superadvanced aliens on a research mission they will not fully disclose. They are benevolent in many ways but meet any act of aggression with disproportional wrath. This has led to a strained relationship between the Ynaa and the local Virgin Islanders and a peace that cannot last.
Emotional prose and distinctive characters highlight an incredible story that will touch readers’ hearts and minds ... A compelling tale of invasive occupation and emotional uprising, Turnbull’s debut is complex and enthralling. It’s a must for all libraries, and the writer, who crafts speculative stories with black characters on par with Octavia Butler, is definitely one to watch.
... combines a solid, modest gravitas, a homey quotidian ambiance, a sophistication of character development, and some genuine SFnal strangeness into a unique and savory gumbo ... A native of the region before taking up residence in the USA, Turnbull has the setting and citizens of St. Thomas in his bones and blood, and he conveys their reality to us gracefully, colorfully and with a minimum of hand-holding ... Turnbull illustrates life on the island and the patterns of culture that contribute to the climactic mini-apocalypse with sensitivity and flair. He charts the personal arcs of his characters with insight and ingenuity ... Ultimately, this deft, low-key, exacting, surprising, yet predestined story assumes the contours of the classic account of two cultures at cross-purposes, misunderstanding each other through a welter of good and bad intentions, tragedy resulting.
If Frantz Fanon had written War of the Worlds, he might have produced something like The Lesson ... Turnbull gives the reader a visceral sense of what it might feel like to live as a colonized body, for those of us with the privilege not to: a life of queasy, oppressive helplessness; a constant low-grade fear and anger that sits at the back of the head like a tension headache always ready to flare ... There are no simple heroes or villains in the story, for the most part. Turnbull allows the reader to see the full range of their humanity, in all its knotty complexity ... One of Turnbull’s brilliant conceits is to jump back in time periodically to show the reader harrowing visions of the Virgin Islands’ history of violent occupation ... does something more complicated than imagine a brave resistance against an invading force or humans learning to coexist in harmony with a misunderstood alien species. The Lesson is concerned with the experience of dehumanization under the project of colonialism. What if the arrival of alien life wasn’t the future, but just another recapitulation of our bloody past? ... Turnbull shows with heartbreaking clarity that even when fundamentally different individuals are able to find an essential humanity in each other, the nature of colonialism destroys both the colonizer and the colonized.