Posts Tagged SF/romance

Osborn’s “Displaced Detective,” Book 3 — The Cosmos In Danger

Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series is about Sherlock Holmes as transported to the modern day via the hyperspatial physics of Dr. Skye Chadwick.  In books 1 and 2 of this series, Holmes and Chadwick solved some mysteries, then fell in love.  (These books were reviewed here.)  So what happened next?

Lucky for us, Ms. Osborn’s third novel in this series has just been released by Twilight Times Books; it’s called THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT.  Here, we have a possible UFO, another mystery — was a local farmer killed by the UFO, or not?  And if not, who killed him, and for what purpose? — and we also have more romance between Holmes and Chadwick, along with a new threat to the entire cosmos, which only Dr. Chadwick may be able to solve.

THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT (for short), is packed with action and plot, but it may not seem that way at first.  After a jam-packed introduction, the book quiets down to show more of Holmes and Chadwick’s romance — something I found very welcome — but this isn’t as idyllic as it seems, either.  This is because Holmes’s subconscious is working overtime; he keeps dreaming that he and Chadwick are separated by a thin barrier, and he doesn’t know why. 

This important plot point is disguised because Holmes and Chadwick are about to make their romance official as they’re about to get married.  While these two intensely private people want a very small service, their friends of course all want to be there, so there’s some minor conflict there (which ends up getting resolved favorably); then, the newlyweds retire to England to deal with the latest incident at Rendelsham — the possible UFO that’s been sighted there — while Holmes tries to figure out why farmer James McFarlane is dead.  (Was it the UFO?  And if not, what else could possibly have happened?)

In similar fashion to some of the mysteries in book 1 of this series, THE ARRIVAL, anything Holmes turns up regarding the death of McFarlane only leads to more questions.  (My guess is that most of these additional questions will be answered in book 4 of this series, THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS, which is due in 2013.)

But there’s an additional problem; as Holmes and Chadwick dig deeper into this “UFO” that everyone is worried about, Chadwick gets contacted by her “other self” — that is, a Dr. Skye Chadwick from a different dimension.  That Dr. Chadwick also invented the Tesseract, and also “imported” Sherlock Holmes before he could get killed on the rocks of Reichenbach Falls — but that Chadwick and Holmes did not have a lengthy romance, much less get married.  Worse, the incident in THE ARRIVAL that killed one of our Chadwick’s team ended up killing most of the other-Chadwick’s team, including Chadwick’s best friend in any dimension, Caitlin Hughes, which has had a terrible effect on other-Chadwick’s morale.

This is the main reason why other-Chadwick has contacted our Chadwick-Holmes; other-Chadwick needs help to figure out why the multiverse seems to be on the verge of imploding or exploding.  (This isn’t exactly what’s happening; the universes being in danger — the cosmos, in short — has something to do with the use of the Tesseract device.  By the time other-Chadwick comes to our Chadwick-Holmes, things have rapidly worsened.  Thus other-Chadwick’s solution.)  And because both universes that contain a version of Chadwick and Holmes are fairly close, if our Chadwick-Holmes cannot help other-Chadwick, it’s possible that these two universes will end up disappearing — and taking much, if not all, of the rest of the multiverse out with it.

Once this happens, Chadwick-Holmes starts to work feverishly, something that disturbs her new husband Sherlock Holmes something fierce.  They have a small argument or two (neither have the temperament to get extremely irate, which is probably just as well), mostly because Holmes doesn’t understand why his wife is working so hard.  He believes our Chadwick-Holmes should be able to take more rest, preferably with him, and continue working on their marriage — but the sense of urgency is real.  (Note that Holmes isn’t being obnoxious here; it’s part of the plot that the various universes have to synch up by time — that is, because the universes can look “forward” and “backward” in time, universes must pick whatever time they look into another universe, so other-Chadwick and other-Holmes are able to give our Chadwick and Holmes some extra time to solve this problem.  But as our Chadwick explains via mathematics and logic, the other-Chadwick/other-Holmes can only give them a certain amount of extra time.)

So, what happens next?  We get a cliffhanger, that’s what, though it’s not packaged as a “usual” cliffhanger due to the gentle nature of how THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT ends.  (Further reviewer sayeth not.)

Overall, the romance in THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT is superb, especially when contrasted against the failed romance of other-Chadwick and other-Holmes.  The physics, once again, are rock solid, yet understandable for the intelligent layman.  And the underlying mystery as to what happened to farmer McFarlane, much less how Holmes gets to the bottom of the various layers of this newest case, is extremely interesting.

Thus far, Ms. Osborn’s writing quality has continued at a very high level.  Which is why despite the quiet section that lasted nearly 75 pages (yet contained very many plot points that were vital to understand what happened for the remaining 200+ pages of the book), THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT held my interest from beginning to end.

Bottom line: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT is a fine addition to the Displaced Detective series and does not disappoint.  (Can’t wait for book 4.  Write fast, Ms. Osborn!)

Grade: A.

— reviewed by Barb

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Gini Koch’s “Alien in the Family” Equals Light, Witty, Amusing SF/Romance

Gini Koch’s ALIEN IN THE FAMILY is the third book in her series about Katherine “Kitty” Katt, an “alien exterminator” who works with both the CIA and the Centaurion Division.  Kitty is engaged to Jeff Martini, who looks like any old (extremely good-looking) human, but is actually an “A-C” — that is, he’s from Alpha Centauri originally but ended up settling on Earth, along with many others, due to a religious dispute.  Jeff has two hearts and can move at hyperspeed; otherwise, he’s the same as any other male in existence — that is, he’s jealous, frequently for no reason whatsoever, and really likes to have sex.  (A lot.)

Kitty, of course, is madly in love with Jeff and finds him intensely desirable.  Which is why in this third book of the “Kitty Katt” series, Kitty’s about ready to settle down with Jeff in what’s literally the wedding of the universe.  But getting married obviously isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds.  The A-Cs are undercover (no, humanity still doesn’t really know anything about the A-Cs, aside from agents like Kitty) and mixed-marriages between humans and A-Cs are frowned upon.  Worst of all, Kitty finds out that Jeff is actually exiled Centaurion royalty (something he doesn’t care about, but the other A-Cs, both off and on Earth, do), which cause major complications all around.

As this is humorous science fiction romance, there are many laugh-out-loud moments due to the scrapes Kitty gets into (some are of her own making; most aren’t) and the people of all stripes, nationalities, and species she runs across.  Kitty, you see, is against being politically correct, so when she meets a member of a lizard-like race, she calls that person an “Iguanadon.”  (That person eventually gets over it.)  And, this being a comedic romance, manages to make that person not only her friend, but a second “BFF” (her first BFF, a gay former international fashion model named James Reader who figures into the plot in a not-so-insignificant way, of course doesn’t mind this in the least).

The pluses of ALIEN IN THE FAMILY are the romance, the humor, the believability of Kitty’s various scrapes, and the overall characterization.  It’s a fun book to read (and re-read) because of its fast pace and interesting take on interspecies politics, religious disputes, and of course the wedding and fashion design industry.

But the one, big minus that I couldn’t keep myself from noticing was this — all of these people are way too good-looking for words.  I can believe it of the A-Cs — they’re aliens, so if they look much better than the average human being, I understand that.  I also can believe Kitty’s quite attractive, and of course her friend James the former male model would be expected to be way, way above average.  But why is it that nearly everyone in this book needed to be not just attractive, but stunningly gorgeous, to the point that Raphael would’ve rhapsodized over them had they been among his models?  (Much less Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.?)

I realize that in the science fiction/romance genre, it’s the norm for both the hero and heroine to be outrageously, mind-bogglingly attractive, though the better SF/romances, such as Lois McMaster Bujold’s SHARDS OF HONOR, get away from that somewhat (Cordelia falls in love with Aral because he’s intelligent, not because he’s stunningly gorgeous; it gradually occurs to her that she’d rather look at Aral any day of the week even though others might find him ordinary because he’s the best and finest person she’s ever met).  But it’s really off-putting when not one of the leads, secondary leads, or even tertiary leads is a normal looking person (or less) with stunningly good qualities in other areas, and it does, unfortunately, weaken the overall impact of the story as it’s flat-out impossible that every single person Kitty runs across is just that attractive.

That being said, ALIEN IN THE FAMILY is a fun book to spend a few hours with and is a novel you’ll enjoy if you appreciate the humorous SF/romance genre whatsoever.

Grade: B-plus.

— reviewed by Barb

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