The Third Wheel by Michael J. Ritchie

third wheel“English teacher Dexter feels like he’s being taunted by the universe. Every last one of his friends is settling down with their other halves, while Dexter spends his evenings marking schoolbooks with his ginger cat for company. After another wedding ends in a drunken disaster, Dexter is musing on the situation and wondering what he’s going to screw up next, when he gets the shocking reminder that he’s not the centre of the universe. An alien spaceship has landed on the continent and when first contact is made, it’s anything but friendly. Humanity’s numbers dwindle immediately, and the survivors are left to do exactly that – survive.”

The Third Wheel was a one-sitting read for me! Two-headed aliens invade Earth, a group of friends tries to survive. There are some gay and bi characters that simply exist; they’re a natural part of this friend group without being “issue” characters. I appreciated that. There are cishet men who aren’t afraid to show emotion, and who don’t get made fun of for it. There’s also no love story, which was refreshing.

I really liked the main character. Dexter isn’t perfect, but I found him thoughtful and real. Plus, he loves books and his cat, which is kind of irresistible. He appreciates his friends so deeply. In the first half of the book, he takes time to flash back and explain how he met and connected with each one of his friends, and those moments were a joy to read.

There are plenty of funny moments in this book, including light satire and poking fun at sci-fi tropes. The pacing is perfect — like I said, I read this in one sitting. I mean, we’re talking about apocalyptic fiction where the end of the world comes via nanobot-wielding aliens! But The Third Wheel offers reflections on friendship and found family, too, which adds a nice layer of depth to all of the action.

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