The Book of Ralph

Fiction - Science Fiction
416 Pages
Reviewed on 12/11/2017
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

Christopher Steinsvold received his PhD in philosophy from the City University of New York Graduate School and University Center. He is currently an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. In his creative writing, he uses his background in philosophy to feed his imagination.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Francine Zane for Readers' Favorite

The Book of Ralph by Christopher Steinsvold opens with the message “Drink Diet Coke” written across the moon by an unknown source. Markus West is hired to investigate the phenomenon, but he has little success, until one day a cylinder appears over the White House and Markus is pulled in for an extraterrestrial contact with the fun-loving Ralph.

Christopher Steinsvold has created one of those books that you will either get and love every minute of it, or walk away scratching your head as you wonder what all the fuss is about. The Book of Ralph is a richly balanced science fiction novel filled with humor, thought-provoking philosophical concepts, a liberal peppering of hard science, and just-a-hair-more-than-is-good-for-you sophomoric references.

Ralph is who I want to be when I grow up—if I grow up. He thinks outside of the box and tries his best to dumb down his very existence into something humans can understand. His tale is a refreshing take on science fiction. I especially liked the concept of an alien who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and who values hugs. If only more people could be like Ralph, the world would be a better place.

Wake up your brain. Read The Book of Ralph with the expectation of being entertained. When you finish, you may find yourself a little wiser and a whole lot more open to the possibilities in a world built of impossibilities. At the very least, you will find yourself wanting to talk about your discoveries, preferably in front of an Andy Warhol painting.

Caitlin Lyle Farley

Somebody has written ‘Drink Diet Coke’ on the moon. All fingers immediately point to Coca-Cola, who deny any responsibility. Outraged citizens boycott Coke and burn down factories around the world. Dr Markus West gets a call from his old friend in Congress, asking him to join the official investigation into this incident. He accepts. Eight and a half months later, Markus announces the conclusion of the investigation and its findings: that Coca-Cola is not responsible for the lunar advert. Exactly a year after the advert appeared on the moon, a 4 a.m. phone call summons Markus to the White House. A massive can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup is descending towards the White House, piloted by an alien called Ralph. An anthropologist from another world, Ralph has made contact with the USA to deliver a dire warning.

I found it hard to discern where dry humor ended and earnestness began in The Book of Ralph. For example, there’s a reference to the USA as the most influential country in the world. I’m inclined to believe this is a subtle poke at the stereotype of America as a nation with an inflated sense of self-importance, but it’s not clear. Other elements, like the Kardashians, are comedic in a more obvious manner. Otherwise, Ralph’s views on Earth are insightful, and the protocols laid out by his race for establishing first contact ring true, even if the results are humorous. Ralph is an intriguing and likable character, and Christopher Steinsvold has done an excellent job of imagining a being that is plausible while still maintaining an element of strangeness. The human characters pale in comparison. The Book of Ralph is an entertaining and unusual take on an alien invasion with a fresh philosophical view on life.

Arya Fomonyuy

While entertaining readers with this wonderful meld of sci-fi and adventure, The Book of Ralph by Christopher Steinsvold will provoke powerful thoughts in readers with its philosophical leanings. The message that appears on the moon is very clear and can be read from any point on earth. It reads: “Drink Diet Coke.” Markus West can’t believe what he is seeing, and he will lead the team of investigators looking into the origin of the message, but Coca-Cola denies responsibility for the message. The investigation will only prove Coca-Cola’s innocence while an unusual phenomenon happens five miles above the White House with a cylinder floating in the air, one with a strong resemblance to a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup. While everyone sees the two events as advertising stunts, they are the work of an alien who tries to make contact with Markus West. Ralph has a message that could save humanity, but is the world ready for it?

I don’t particularly love books with aliens, but The Book of Ralph was something I couldn’t stop reading. The plot is well-imagined and the characters are rock-solid. I enjoyed the way Markus West is developed, a character I wouldn’t want to be. The story is told in a compelling voice that allows the reader to enjoy the points of view, and Markus’ voice is really irresistible. The chapters are written to tease the reader every step of the way, short and with intriguing endings. The paragraph breaks are well designed to have a strong dramatic effect on the reader. Christopher Steinsvold blends humor with suspense to build interest in readers and the emotional intensity of the story is palpable. This is a story that is beautifully written, mind-boggling, and utterly entertaining; one with many interesting layers.

Grant Leishman

The Book of Ralph by Christopher Steinsvold is a comedy with a message. When a sign - “Drink Diet Coke” - suddenly and mysteriously appears on the moon, everyone on Earth just assumes somehow that Coca-Cola had managed to do this. The backlash against Coke is massive, but what no one understands is the sign was a message from Ralph. Ralph is an alien come to warn Earth of an impending invasion by one of the most feared races in the Universe, the Kardashians, from the planet Kardash. Markus, a disgraced “rocket scientist” formerly with NASA, is asked by the White House to investigate the mysterious advertisement and report back whether Coke was indeed the miscreant. Confusion reigns, though, when a giant Chicken Soup Can, containing the alien Ralph, lands outside the White House. So begin the adventures of Ralph.

What I particularly liked about The Book of Ralph was the subtle, yet clever humour that Steinsvold used to introduce the reader to much deeper and interesting thoughts. Although, I would have to say that Ralph’s explanations as to the “purpose of being” and the Universe, in general, didn’t actually come as a surprise to me, it made them nonetheless interesting and thought provoking. The idea that we, as a species, could possibly be alone in this massive universe is an arrogant and presumptuous notion. I also liked the idea that we are far too primitive and young in evolutionary terms to understand much of what Ralph and his like could tell us. I found Ralph to be totally appealing and, as a potential “alien”, one you would not mind making contact with. Chris Steinsvold has brought us a funny, thoughtful book with some real insight and I can definitely recommend this not only to readers with a sci fi or philosophical bent, but also to those who just like a good yarn well told.

K.J. Simmill

When he failed to find evidence that Coca-Cola was responsible for the 'Drink Diet Coke' slogan that mysteriously appeared on the surface of the moon, Markus West's name became garbage. Exactly one year after the advert's appearance he received a call. The Secret Service agents were waiting outside, and he was to report to the White House at once. At 1:28 a.m. the world had changed forever. When Markus arrived, the White House was empty, the President and her family, along with the Vice President, had all been evacuated, and why? Well, it had something to do with the large tin of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup descending at a steady trajectory towards the White House. This was first contact, but not in any way you'd ever have imagined. Find out what happens next in Christopher Steinsvold's The Book of Ralph.

The Book of Ralph is definitely a book for people who like the less serious side of sci-fi. In some places I even found myself drawing parallels with some of Douglas Adams's work. A great injection of humour makes this first person narrative stand apart from some of the others I have read in the genre. If I was to use one word to describe Christopher Steinsvold's style, it would be "quirky." Whilst clearly having a humorous side, there are also serious aspects. The plot is not all fun and games; there is danger, chaos, change, building relationships, and what sci-fi story would be complete without a healthy dose of philosophy to really make you think? Smoothly written with a clear talent and flair; I can honestly say I enjoyed Christopher Steinsvold's The Book of Ralph to its last page.