The Visitors' arrive with the promise to share their great knowledge in exchange for a chemical compound that is missing on their planet which slowly dies. But soon humans begin to notice things are off. Only selected people are invited to the mother ship, children are invited into Visitor friendly groups and one particular group of humans called scientist are suspected of being traitors of the worlds peace conspiring against the visitors. While the Visitors' presence becomes more and more with each passing day, them taking over government institutions, media coverage and police actions, the science community splits into those who suddenly vanish, hide in the underground or close their eyes.
Mike Donavan, daring news camera man was one of the first persons to be invited to the mother ship, meeting the two in command persons John and Diana. His curious nature brings him back to the mother ship incognito to unravel the Visitors' secrets. It is not the chemical compound they need. Instead he finds gazillions of water tanks filled with fresh water. To make it worse he witnesses the real lizard-like nature of the Visitors' and their preservation of human flesh and torture methods. But there aren't only enemies on board of the mother ships. Few of the aliens don't believe in their great leaders plans and form their own resistance working against Diana & John. One of them is Martin who helps Mike out of dangerous situations on the mother ship and also helps him to take some humans back to earth.
Mike gets to know Juliet Parrish, a 4th year medical student and biochemist who made the move into the underground slowly building a resistance to the aliens. In her secret camp the first human/alien baby is born.
If it weren't for the series which I loved on TV and in the old books as well, I'd say I didn't like this book at all. Message overload or whatever one might call it, pointed out the resemblance to Nazi Germany, in a way that left an unsavory, boring aftertaste. Now I know it has been a while since the series aired on TV in 1985 but even than I believe the Holocaust comparison was just playing with human superficial stupidity at that time.
However, there is more to criticize, although it is tried to keep the book as near to the series as possible, which it really is, there are a few major characters simply left out. F. e. the capture of visitor William into the resistance camp and the way humans' learn that not all visitors' agree to their main leaders great plan to take over earth and the resistance that is forming on board of the ships itself. This part just drowned the same way as the part how Robin got pregnant by a visitor and her twins (yes, in the TV series she gave birth to twins, one completely alien and one human with partly lizard like features).
For me as a fan those things are important.
In the end I don't think a new reader to the series is going to like the overload or short chapters involving characters.
It made me sad but who cares, I've got the old books on my shelf. :-)
The book also sort of prepares the reader for the follow-up book V: The Second Generation
. A bit early because between the miniseries and the second generation are over ten books, and well 20 years that have passed.