“An excellent read. It explores the history of the Caribbean Islands in the context of European colonization, along with current events in which communities of color are confronted with overwhelming forces that deal out harsh punishments. It’s a thought-provoking and interesting story, one that I’m still thinking about.” —The Verge
The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull
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 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.
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, witnesses and victims to events that will touch everyone and teach a terrible lesson.
“Bring[s] to mind the urgent and vibrant writing of Octavia Butler…From beginning to end, The Lesson is thrilling, moving and thought-provoking. This may be Turnbull’s debut, but it reads like the work of a seasoned writer. It’s also proof that science fiction is more than entertaining—it’s a vital genre that lays bare the perils of the age and the boundlessness of the human spirit. —Shelf Awareness
“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
“Remarkable…Turnbull’s writing is affecting and intelligent, dropping wisdom like cherry bombs…A daring and thoughtful book…that presents racial issues and questions in a genuinely new way, which makes it a book that, I hope, will stand the test of time.” —Katharine Coldiron, Locus
“Turnbull’s novel 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 miniapocalypse with sensitivity and flair…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.” —Paul Di Filippo, Locus
Cadwell Turnbull is the author of The Lesson. His short fiction has appeared in The Verge, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and several anthologies, including The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 and The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019. His first novel, The Lesson, was the winner of the 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Award in the debut category. The novel was also short-listed for the VCU Cabell Award and long-listed for the Massachusetts Book Award. Turnbull lives in Raleigh and teaches at North Carolina State University.