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First Contract Hardcover – July 7, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Buy Greg Costikyan's book. This book, another book, any book that finds its way into print from the depths of this man's marvelously weird little noggin. Gamers should already know Costikyan well: ignoring his fingerprints on a score of other games, this top-shelf designer created the Star Wars RPG, 1984's classic Toon (with props to Warren Spector), the unbelievably wonderful Paranoia (regrettably, long out of print), and the guy still keeps up his chops with the likes of Violence: The Roleplaying Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed.

In First Contract, Costikyan has resurrected an idea from some long-forgotten shoebox, a novella originally titled "Sales Reps from the Stars." A savvy CEO, a power-suit-wearing, proper Indian businessman by the name of Johnson Mukerjii, gets screwed by an alien invasion. The ETs want to do business, except we're the Aztecs and they're the Spaniards, and we can kiss our gold good-bye. But Mukerjii, after losing everything--his millions, his San Jose manse, his leggy wife--figures out how to beat the aliens at their own game in a characteristically Costikyan way: by producing exports in the form of cheesy, shoddily constructed spaceship beverage accoutrements:

"Made in Japan," "Made in Taiwan," and now--I gestured grandly--"Made on Earth."

Fans of imaginative fiction would do well to keep tabs on Costikyan. --Paul Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

While some varieties of SF aliens have peaceful motives when they arrive on Earth, many are intent on hostile takeovers. The plan of Costikyan's aliens is particularly sinister: to drive all success, love and financial solvency from Johnson Mukerjii's life by flooding the Earth market with their superior technological junk. At least, that is how Mukerjii, the hero who narrates with an endearing braggadocio and swagger familiar to SF fans, sees it. It all starts when the first contract between an alien race and the United Nations sees the advanced civilization's entire knowledge base traded for an apparently useless piece of real estateAJupiter. This turns out to be as terrible a mistake as selling Manhattan island off for a few beads. (Using Jupiter's resources, the aliens build gadgets such as hover cars that fly at Mach 6, objects far beyond the grasp of Earth entrepreneurs.) Earth's economy bottoms out, dragging our hero into the sewers with it (almost literally). Ever the optimist and networker, however, Mukerjii swindles his way to funds so he can develop a product and secure a new contract that will take him back to the top. Costikyan's tale is bouyant and fun, despite having little new to offer. Mukerjii remains appealing throughout, never loses his somewhat dubious dignityAi.e., using surplus food, some of which is labeled unfit for humans, to prepare odd variations of the gourmet meals he was used toAas he fights valiantly against a world out to get him. Readers will take him to heart. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (July 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312873964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312873967
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,436,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
i am not a great fan of the sci-fi/fanatsy genre but i agreed to give this book a fair try when a friend gave me a copy. and withing moments of finishing it i was online looking for more books by the author. apart from being a great story, it is also a hilarious sendup of all sci-fi cliches about utopian alien civilizations who have transcended all selfish ambitions. these aliens do not say live long and prosper. rather, earth is just another market for them to download their goods and all they want in exchange is Jupiter. so most tech-industries on earth are facing bankruptcy since nothing they produce can possibly match the alien gizmos but the genius of johnson mukherji comes with an earth-saving solution. why not turn earth into the taiwan of the galalxy? make tacky stuff incredibly cheap and peddle it at the inflated galactic rate to the visitors? of course there is that little matter of the zdegs who not only control the walmart of the galaxy but also have a unique way of seizing the assets of defaulters. no it does not pretend to be great lit, but i could not wipe te goofy grin off my face for a long time after i finished the last page.
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Format: Hardcover
I definitely recommend it. Basically the idea isn't that the aliens come here to bring peace, knowledge and prosperity, (in spite of their marketing spiel) rather they put earth in its proper place in the galaxy - an incredibly backward planet, ready to be exploited. Compared to the galaxy, we are a third world ... um, world. How do you make a place for yourself in the galaxy in a situation like this? The analogy the author uses is that Earth must become a "Taiwan", using our incredibly cheap labour as our only viable asset. Well that, plus a bit of ingenuity.
Needless to say this isn't 'hard' science fiction. There are plenty of gaping holes in logic, not to mention physics. And there was a time or two when our hero's characterization was a bit off, though those could be explained as the difference between him being the narrator, and what he's really like. Finally, the second last sentence of the book is a bit sobering if you understand what he's getting at, but it leaves the book open to a good sequel. I hope he writes it!
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Format: Hardcover
First Contract is a well timed book. As I was reading it, whenever I started thinking, "This economic model is just too ridiculous," I was stopped short by the realization that it wasn't any more ridiculous than actual economic models of actual public companies on the actual US stock exchanges. And, while exaggerating to ridiculous proportions, it nevertheless made me think about globalization and "comparative economic advantage". That's more than I expect from most SF books, and especially from an over-the-top satire.
I do think the book could have used some editing. There are lots of consistency problems, especially if you keep track of the actual numbers that are used throughout the book. And some of the early chapters are neither especially humorous nor essential to the story. But, overall, it's a success.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
In short, First Contract is the story of what happens to Earth when technologically advanced aliens arrive at Earth and economically obliterate human corporations with their superior technology. After all, who wants to buy a Ford or Tata when you can have a supersonic flying car for just a few thousand dollars? The protaganist, a technology CEO by the name of Johnson Mukerjii, sees his company fall apart when the aliens' superior technology and production methods show his company's stock in trade to be hopelessly obsolete. Mukerjii, along with more than half the United States, soon finds himself to be out of work and homeless, cast aside by the "worst financial crisis since the fall of Rome."

That historical analogy is just one of several that pop up throughout the book. Mukerjii and others wonder if Earth is following the Aztec example in the historical collision between the Spanish and that nation -- hopelessly out of date and forced to give up what few valuables it has in a vain hope of getting a leg up. Eventually, Mukerjii figures out a way to turn Earth into the Japan -- not the Aztec Empire -- of the galaxy, and the result is an incredibly interesting story.

For someone interested in science fiction, the story is a gold mine of ideas and techniques. Far too often, writers have their characters embarking on vast Galaxy-spanning quests in Earth-built spaceships with no thought to the economics that allow those ships to be built in the first place. It's always been a turn-off to me that writers fail to address such a basic requirement of human society, but I've always thought the subject of first-contact economics and sales was just too dry to address in a novel. Costikyan proves that wrong.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Johnson Mukerjii is on top of the world; he’s rich, married to a beautiful woman, and his high-tech firm is about to come out with the most advanced 3-D computer. And then the aliens came. Selling their advanced technology at reasonable prices, they drive Earth’s high-tech firms out of business, and Mukerjii out into the streets. But, Johnson Mukerjii is not a man to stay down long; he knows that to stay alive Earth must produce, it must become the Taiwan of the galaxy!

A friend recommended this book to me, and it came as quite a revelation. I had not heard of it before, but it is quite a fantastic book! The roller coaster ride that Greg Costikyan puts on for the reader is both surprising and believable. As the humans try to come to grips with the new world, they resort to old ways of thinking: some latch on to old racism, and some Boomers return to their past for a drug-laced “Winter of Love!”

This is a fascinating book, one that makes you think at the same time that it entertains. I think that this is a great book, and I highly recommend it to you.
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