Saturday, July 12, 2008

Unleashed by C. J. Barry

Category: Sci-Fi Romance
Series: Yes, but stands on its own

Lacey Garrett was about to be free. Before, she’d been shackled by despair. Her fiancé had run off with her business, her savings, and stuck her with his cat. What had she done to stop him? Nothing.

But she’d just been beamed to another planet. Here, she wasn’t an ordinary Earthwoman; she was part of a team. Here, she could help a man like the roguish starship captain Zain Masters, could take a little weight off his broad shoulders if only he would let her. Here, she could face krudo, interplanetary defense systems, and galaxy-wide conspiracies. She could even defeat the monstrous Bobzillas that looked like her ex-fiancé! For Zain, Lacey could do anything – because his kisses, his touch, everything about him felt like destiny. And that destiny was the true Lacey Garrett … Unleashed.

Kat and Mel read this book a while ago, enjoyed it, and recommended it to me as they thought I might like it too.

Lacey is a brilliant computer programmer who’s minding her own dreary business when she answers a Help message on a computer message board. Before she knows it, she is beamed to another planet and comes face to face with the sender of the Help message … the beautiful, rugged and sexy extraterrestrial Zain, who’s a hunted fugitive, who also owns a talking spaceship named Reene. Zain and Reene are stranded on a desert planet that’s home to the crab-like krudo and Godzilla-lookalikes.

Zain needs Lacey to help him find a way to leave that planet. While they are working towards that, they stumble across a massive underground structure manned by ‘droids. With a little help from their crustacean friends, Zain and Lacey poke around and uncover a nasty galactic conspiracy that will doom hundreds of juvenile planets, including Earth. It’s up to the space cowboy Zain and the Warrior Programmer Lacey to save the day.

I loved the action-adventure and the conspiracy theory, which kept me turning the pages. The author had created an intriguing conspiracy that was revealed layer by layer, while the action-adventure sequences were rapid, tension-filled and heart-palpitating.

The world-building was great … be it Earth, the arid planet that Zain and Lacey were stranded on, and all the places they teleported to – the sense of place was vivid and realistic.

I thought the characterization of the lead characters was just all right. Zain was underwhelming as a hero (another beta). He didn't feel at all sexy to me, no matter how much that silly Lacey went on and on about his rugged cowboy sexiness. I had a tough time picturing him, to be honest. He came across as weary, and I did feel sorry for all that he’d been through but he just wasn’t memorable. I finished the book in the morning, and by the afternoon, I had already forgotten his name.

Lacey irritated the hell out of me! Sure, she was likeable enough – in possession of womanly compassion, vulnerability and courage, was a real impressive programmer, not to mention she did more than her share of saving Zain's butt – BUT I couldn't stand her perky-flippant thoughts and quips which made her silly and irritating. For me, not many authors can make flippancy witty and engaging. Most of the time, flippancy just makes a character silly, annoying and in extreme cases, downright detestable. My tolerance level for flippant characters is really low. While I couldn’t remember Zain’s name after only half a day, I did remember Lacey, for all the wrong reasons.

Zain and Lacey’s romance didn't quite impress me. I’m quite sure it was because they didn’t rouse much feeling in me in the first place. I know they went through a lot together and their love was a natural progression born from mutual respect, trust and the goodness they saw in each other. Unfortunately, I found the romance and the characters to be forgettable ... this is so sad.

The secondary characters were great. Pio, the surprisingly industrious krudo, was at once cute and funny. I found his adoration of Oliver, Lacey’s cat, endearing. Reene, the talking spaceship, was engaging and witty. He reminded me of another talking spaceship, the sentient Simon of Linnea Sinclair’s Accidental Goddess. Zain’s sister, the headstrong and adventurous Torrie, made an appearance here. Her story is the next one in this series (Unmasked), which Kat and Mel really loved. From what I had seen of Torrie, she was not flippant, so I will read her book.

So, what I really liked about this story were just the space action-adventure and the world-building. Based on my personal opinion, and coloured by my own prejudice, I rate this story 3.5/Warm.

However, don’t listen to just me because Kat and Mel loved this story. Read what they said.

Kat: Oh my, I liked this book even better than Unraveled. It was all so romantic and funny. I felt so much for Zain, his loneliness, his desperation, his pain of being hunted and his separation from his family. His love for Reene, his only friend, was so great. Imagine, year after year in a spaceship with only an artificial intelligence by your side … that must take its toll on your psychic equilibrium. Zain really deserved his HEA.

Mel: I really liked this one too. I liked Zain a lot and felt for him being all alone with just Reene. Wasn't Reene awesome! I thought it was so cute how he would imitate Lacey's favourite western movies.

Kat: I liked Lacey from the first moment. I could really relate with her. She was so insecure, but when she decided to stand up, she kicked everyone's ass in a heartbeat. She was courageous and ready to fight for her love and for the lives of her loved ones. I loved it how she always protected Oliver.

Mel: I liked Lacey too. She was spunky and trying to better her life. She really came into her own during the story.

Kat: I also loved Pio. He was so funny and I thought it was a great idea to let the crustaceans play hero. I liked it much more when he went underground with Zain and Lacey. I thought he was very much in love with Oliver.

Mel: Pio was adorable. He certainly had a love affair with Oliver. I'm not sure Oliver cared much for Pio though. It would have been nice if they taken him with them. I thought it was cute how Pio and his brothers kept disrupting the station.

Kat: The story was great. One man plotting for world domination. Look what is happening here on earth. We had that with the Romans, Napoleon, Hitler and many more. Nowadays, they try to control the world economics, so it doesn't happen so openly.

Mel: That's one thing I've noticed in this series, is how Barry wrote in a context that also fits our world. It reminds me of the original Star Trek. That show always dealt with real social problems and made you think.

Kat: The end made me sigh and put a happy grin on my face. It was deeply satisfying. I can't wait to continue with Torrie's story.

Mel: Yes, I loved the ending too. I'm already halfway through Unmasked and it's so good. I wonder if she'll be writing more books in this series. I sure hope so.

Kat: I'd rate it 4.75/Warm.

Mel: My rating is 4.5/Warm.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

It's an acceptable, slightly above-average read.

Sensuality rating: Warm


Frances said...

Hi Jace!
I liked all of C.J. Barry's Sci-Fi Romances, but especially UNMASKED. It had a depth that the first in the series lacked. I have talked to C.J. several times since the release of UNMASKED, but unfortunately she doesn't have any Sci-Fi Romances in the pipeline right now. I can't help but think that she is maturing as a writer and what will come is going to be better than what has been. Perhaps with a little encouragement from her fans she will write SFR again. I hope so.


Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Jace said...

Hi Frances,

This was my first Barry book, and I was impressed by the action-adventure and world-building. On Kat and Mel's behest ;-) I've got Unmasked too, which I'm going to read soon.