At its heart Illegal Alien is a story about aliens arriving and pushing both sides to re-examine their beliefs about divine creation and debates over evolution while one of the visitors undergoes a John Grisham style courtroom drama having been accused of the murder of an American scientist in their entourage. Stranded on the planet thanks to some damage their ship underwent entering the solar system, the president’s own science advisor enlists the assistance of the country’s top rights lawyer to argue the alien’s defense. Proving yet again the exhaustive research that Robert Sawyer’s prepared to do, the book should be credited for both his explanation of legal procedures and the nuances of successfully arguing such cases in the United States. The extraterrestrial angle however adds a certain degree of humor, and the opportunity for the outsider to comment on this legal system all the while providing the reader with some useful information about astronomy. The book also touches upon issues like racism and xenophobia.

Throughout, the story is peppered with a number of cameos from a Barbara Walters interview to Steven Spielberg being in attendance at a welcoming reception for the Tosoks in California, or for the Canadians reference to a CBC reporter being in one of the press scrum and some of the expert testimony made in the court case being done so by a professor from the University of Toronto. The plot is engaging, moves along quickly, and should appeal to fans of sci-fi and legal thrillers alike. Chapters are also relatively short, so proves ideal for commutes.