Passing for Human was published in 1986 in the Women’s Press science fiction series.
This is a roller coaster of a read, which hits the road at speed on page one with our alien heroine Benaroya racing down a Californian highway in a stolen Mustang, outrunning the highway cops, and engaging in a speed duel with another motorist which ends in her rival’s Lotus crashing and exploding, “Metal, glass and bits of human flesh rained down for hundred yards in every direction.” Ouch.
Benaroya is an anthropologist, a member of the Rysemian race sent to Earth to assist in the construction of an intergalactic rapid transit system. Their spaceship is in orbit above the Earth.
Preparing for this expedition, the Rsyemians had obtained several hundred Earthie movies including “The Godfather,” “Marked Women,”, “Duck Soup” and “You Were Never Lovelier.” They had analyzed and studied these films meticulously. They observed that humanity was epitomized in such specimens as Jack Oakle, Ronald Reagan, Rochelle Hudson and Hattie McDaniel. The mannerisms and speech patterns, songs and dances of many celebrities had been carefully memorized. and since the Rysemains were telepaths and could awlays probe to find out what was expected, fitting in would be no problem.
The Rysemians, who are large aquatic dolphin-like creatures, are able to disguise themselves as “Earthies,” changing bodies as easily as changing a dress. Benaroya thus spends part of the novel as Emma Peel from The Avengers (which is why Emma Peel appears on the cover).
They face an enemy, Scaulzo, who is planning to takeover the Earth, a task which the Rysemians think will be easy for him.
Large crude, stupid, barbaric males with criminal tendencies are worshipped. Flattering movies about them are churned out by the hundreds. They run government, busines, religion, sport and crime, which are actually all the same thing.
The action moves around the globe like a Bond m0vie as Benaroya (now disguised as Virginia Woolf and packing a gun) and Scaulzo move towards their final confrontation.
Humour and satire in science fiction is hard to get right (which is why Douglas Adams was a genius), but for me this novel works.