Book Review: Intraterrestrial


by Nicholas Conley


254 pages. 

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.

After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.

Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.

First Sentence:  The boy in the bathroom mirror had a purple shiner for a left eye, and oddly enough, the boy was him.

My Thoughts:

I’ve never had a favorite book.  Sure, I am passionate about reading and there are plenty of great books out there that I have enjoyed immensely through the years, but when all is considered, there isn’t a single book out there that I have ever read more than twice.  There’s never been one that has moved me in such a way that I’ve felt the need to revisit it over and over again, like a memory that screams to stay on a looped play mode. After reading Intraterrestrial, however it seems that has changed. I have already started re-reading it! A few chapters, I have reread three or 4 times! I have fallen madly in love with this book!

The summary alone was enough to grab my interest. While I’m typically not much for alien abduction stories, there was an additional element that hooked me. The mysteries of the human brain and consciousness.  Intraterrestrial didn’t feel so much like a typical alien story to me. It rather felt like an exciting and surreal adventure that left me asking myself some very deep questions about the human experience, consciousness, perception, imagination, and how it’s all connected to something beyond our understanding.

First Chapter Impressions:

In the first chapter, we are introduced to Adam Helios, a withdrawn teenager who doesn’t have any close friends.  His parents are having marital problems and it seems divorce is getting closure to being put on the table. On top of that, he is a victim of bullying at school and doesn’t have the support of any other peers to help him cope with it. Adam begins to hear a voice inside his head one day— the Star Voice— claims to be from outer space, and as a result he withdrawals even more, fearing he is going crazy.  Though, a good-natured boy with a big heart, Adam Helios is drowning in his own self-loathing.

Camille Helios is his mother, a fiery go-getter that, at first impression, reminds me of a typical irate and unreasonably demanding customer that makes anyone who works in the food industry or retail cringe and question humanity.  Yes.  One of those.  Adam’s dad is much more laid back and soft-spoken, which makes me sympathize with him for being paired with his seemingly polar opposite and more than likely putting up with a lot of verbal abuse.

The story opens up with the Helios family at Adam’s school in the principal’s office.  Adam is in trouble for finally getting pushed too far and beating the crap out of his longtime tormenting peer, Joe Sanderson. Joe is a prick and his parents prove to be just as bad when they decide to make arrangements to sue Adam’s family, out of sheer spite.

I wanted to smack the hell out of the Sanderson family so bad as I read through that first chapter, and it was that anger that told me that the rest of the book was going to be amazing. It was going to make me feel genuine emotions for the characters and I was going to get attached to them. By the end of chapter 1, I only confirmed it to myself as I fell into a state of shock and numbness.  These characters that I had just been introduced to and yet, somehow, already felt connected to, are involved in a tragic car accident, and the outcome does not look good.

Ah, what a fresh breath of insightfulness!

The rest of the story presents itself like this:  Adam has a traumatic brain injury and will more than likely either die or be a vegetable for the remainder of his life.

In the form of an out of body experience, he follows the calls of the Star Voice and ends up being whisked away into outer space to help save six aliens (the Courage, the Optimist, the Mad Glee, the Motherboard, and the Rage) who operate a vessel known as The Consciousness. They are all sick and risk succumbing to the Nothing Spot, also referred to as the Destroyer.  Adam communicates and perceives these aliens through his imagination, and only he can save them. His inner battles and emotional conflicts throughout are captivating and heart wrenching all at once! By the end of the story, I felt as if I had made a new friend. And as creepy as that sounds, it was just that powerful.

Meanwhile, his mother is battling with guilt by blaming herself for the accident. We see a lot of character growth within Camille throughout the book as she deals with her own inner ‘aliens’ and the possible bleak outcomes of her husband and son.  She must eventually make a decision that will decide Adam’s fate, and as a parent myself, I cried for her.

The aliens themselves are interesting characters. The Optimist is by far my favorite, whose insight often made me have to put the book down so I could reflect on it.  As far as writing, the scenes are exquisitely descriptive and the way everything comes together and connects is simply mindblowing.

Throughout the book, I found myself wondering, is Adam really in space, or is he just fighting an internal battle within his damaged brain?  Or maybe… it’s both.  What is consciousness anyway?  What is our brain but a vessel?  All of these things to think about without there being a wrong or right answer…

There is one more thing I would like to point out that I liked and that’s the song that the author chose to use as the song playing just before the car accident. The Day I Tried To Live by Soundgarden is a song that I grew up listening to and love!  And it fits the story so well!  I played the song several times as I was reading and it was just an amazing effect!

I read Intraterrestrial in digital format, but as soon as my budget allows it, I intend on buying a physical copy to keep in my book bag. I can’t love a book this much and not have a physical copy! This is going to be a book that I read again and again because the questions it makes me ask myself, the symbolism, realizations and new perceptions that it introduces to me is exactly the kind of intellectual mind candy that my imagination craves.  I have no doubt that I will discover something new each time I read it. My favorite book!

Favorite Quotes:

“Fear is a quality shared by all of the bravest beings in the universe.”

She stared into her own dark, evil eyes with intense hatred for the woman reflected in the mirror, who oddly enough was her.

The best solutions come when you’re not thinking so hard about them.

“…and I think, really, that’s all bravery is. Brave people… they are afraid, but they act anyway.”

“Hope is brightest before it’s snatched away.”

“Fear is a quality shared by all of the bravest beings in the universe.”

Keep going. Fear can become strength.

“Every conscious being in the universe is a mess. That’s what’s so beautiful about life. Clean things are boring things.”

“I suppose that no matter where one exists in the universe or in what form life might be shaped, pain will always exist.  It is a necessary consequence of consciousness.  Of course, so is happiness”— the Optimist looked up to the ceiling of the cave, grasping at the strands of Saturnian light that cut through the ice and shone down on him— “but happiness is always a prelude to more pain.”

“Adam Helios, if you understand nothing else, then remember this: perception itself is nothing more than an illusion that sentient beings use as a tool to interact with a universe that is impossible to perceive.”

“Imagine that for all of your life, you had pursued a dream. Then imagine that someone took that dream, stomped on it, and then twisted it to hurt everyone you cared about. That is what it felt like to lose my spark.”

Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Other Books by Nicholas Conely that I’ve reviewed:

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