The Lesson

Narrated by: Janina Edwards, Ron Butler
Length: 8 hrs and 37 mins
4 out of 5 stars (128 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An alien ship rests over Water Island. For five years, the people of the US Virgin Islands have lived with the Ynaa, a race of super-advanced 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.

A year after the death of a young boy at the hands of an Ynaa, three families find themselves at the center of the inevitable conflict, witness and victim to events that will touch everyone and teach a terrible lesson.

©2019 Cadwell Turnbull (P)2019 Blackstone Publishing

Critic Reviews

“Turnbull is a rising star in the science fiction and fantasy world.” (The Verge

“Turnbull was raised in the Caribbean in a family that lived there for generations. This slow but gradual addition to the field of diverse writers whose fiction is influenced by their cultural background has not only led to a more authentic depiction of places other than mainland America and the United Kingdom, it’s also revitalized the genre’s creaky old tropes, such as the alien invasion/first contact narrative.... The Lesson is everything I adore about a debut, a bold new voice that applies a fresh coat of paint to an old idea and does so with a sense of daring, compassion, and intelligence.” (Ian Mond, Locus) 

“Sometimes the aliens don’t land in New York or London. In fact, the alien Ynaa ship that catalyzes the emotional landscape and drives the action of this debut novel lands in the harbor of Water Island, one of the US Virgin Islands.... A persuasively - almost musically - worded meditation on colonialism and whether it’s really possible to return home again.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review)  

Editor's Pick

First contact & human connection
"Despite its popularity as a genre, I find that true literary sci-fi is a tricky thing to get just right. And yet Cadwell Turnbull’s debut has done just that. A first-contact narrative set in the US Virgin Islands, The Lesson is as "unpauseably" (it’s a word, okay?) compulsive as it is worthy of quietly savoring. Turnbull explores—yes, even through his non-human characters—the full range of the human experience: the sense of family, of feeling on the outside, of needing to belong to someone or something. One listen will not be enough—I know I’ll come back to this novel again, eager to reacquaint myself with the characters and pick up on those subtle cues missed the first time around. Not to mention re-experience the dynamic performances from the skilled duo of Janina Edwards and Ron Butler."
Sam D., Audible Editor

What listeners say about The Lesson

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

That was it?

Missing real content. The story left me wondering why I purchased the book. It felt like a short story instead of a novel.

7 people found this helpful

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Reduction to the mundane

The book probably has the dubious distinction of reducing the wonders of science fiction writing down to the mundane, something we, the reader, is trying to escape.

5 people found this helpful

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What a thought-provoking book!

Excellent story, and a great listen! It is a rare pleasure for me when an author and a reader (or in this case two readers) transport my mind to an interesting time and place, and introduce me to indelible people (and aliens) with unique life situations. In “The Lesson”, the aliens have landed but decide, in lieu of eating us, to co-earth-share, being helpful in some ways, but in others, threatening our collective human existence. So in these circumstances, how do we go on? What should matter to us? And what is real? Should I buy that edgy-looking e.t. a cup of coffee? These questions will now linger with me for some time.

I see real flashes of Graham Greene in this author’s characters and his attention to detail, and also of Robert Heinlein, in his method of seducing us forward slowly with his story. We should have high expectations for Mister Turnbull going forward. And I thank him for this wonderful story!

8 people found this helpful

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Aliens Arrive, Deliver Gut-Punch

This story quickly immersed me in the culture of St. Thomas, USVI. And these aliens were sympathetic, to a degree.

But the real power of this story comes in showing the huge gap between what we expect from others and how others actually act (or react). In this, there are parallels with the all-time classic "War of the Worlds".

Both narrators did great jobs, showing us different points-of-view from the various characters.

2 people found this helpful

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Awesome story set in my native US Virgin Islands

The story was original and set in the US Virgin Islands, which was an unusual treat. The author captures the feel of the Islands and their history. A true pleasure.

2 people found this helpful

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Interesting

I enjoyed listening to this book. The story was unusual. Descriptions were vivid. Narration was smooth and a good listen.
There were some unanswered questions at the end but I’m assuming there will be a second book.

2 people found this helpful

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SF doing what SF does best; accessible to all

I'm not going to re-cap the blurb or give a synopsis.

It's classic SF, about first contact, and humanity's struggle with a more technologically developed species. The book is informed by the authors background, the history of his birthplace.

History most of us know little about.

In it, all these half century old tropes spring to life on the page, vital and new and infused with fresh meaning, enacted by real characters we feel like we know.

There's stuff about colonialism I knew in my head, that I now feel in my flesh and bones. The book has made me a bigger person. This is the best case scenario; this is what we want books to do.

Human scaled interaction with global importance, existential impact. No straw men. No villains. No superheroes.

Just humanity, love, wonder, loss, resilience.

2 people found this helpful

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Meh...

This started out the first half of the book as a great read, then it just fell on its face the second half. It seemed like the author had a great idea to start a book, then lost all inspiration and rushed through the rest of the story to meet a publisher's deadline.

The characters were kind of one dimensional, and as I made it through to the end finally, I was left still trying to find out what the actual "Lesson" really was supposed to be.

A 2 1/2 star out of 5 read.

1 person found this helpful

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what happened?

They (Ena) were here and then they left. So did the author and editors. Seems like the effort was completely gone by the end. Kudos to the performers though!

1 person found this helpful

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Sssso Interessssting

This novel wasn't quite what I expected but I grew to appreciate the paced reading and thoughtfulness of the ideas. Not a Syfi thriller or action story, but more of a contemplative saga. Janina Edwards narration was great.

3 people found this helpful