REVIEW: "Zeroth Contact" by Joshua Cole

Review of Joshua Cole, “Zeroth Contact”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2020): 150–155 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Contains spoilers.

After accidentally spotting a group of alien objects on the asteroid belt, Mark and his supervisor are hastily summoned to Washington D.C. to advise the government on the situation. They speculate endlessly about the aliens’ purpose and intentions while preparing for a potential first contact — friendly or hostile. In the end, however, all their work amounts to nothing. As it turns out, the aliens are only passing through and have no interest whatsoever in humans.

This was yet another “pulp” style piece of science fiction reminiscent of the golden age. The plot resembles Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” quite a bit, albeit in a far more condensed rendition. “Zeroth Contact” lacks the scientific rigor of Rama (by a lot!), but the characters are not as dead and unimportant as they are in most of Clarke’s work. Unlike Clarke, Cole tells the story from very prominent and distinguishable point of view that gives the overall story remarkable charm and energy, making it a joy to read.