Review: Alien Revealed by Lilly Cain

Title: Alien Revealed
Series: The Confederacy Treaty, #1
Genres/Themes: science fiction romance, aliens, military
Length: novella
Author: Lilly Cain
Excerpt: on author's website

Quick Take:
While not groundbreaking, this is certainly a solid piece of sci-fi romantica. The scope of the novella's plot is intimate, but there are threads that imply greater complexity on a series level, to be explored in future installments.

Book Description (via Goodreads):
     Inarrii agent Alinna Gaerrii was tasked with observing the Starforce base on Earth. Crash landing her observation pod was not part of her mission briefing. Neither was making m'ittar—mind contact—with Major David Brown, the human who found her amongst the wreckage.
     David thinks she's a psychologist sent to evaluate his Special Forces team, and Alinna goes along with his misconception, seizing the opportunity to observe humans up close. But their contact has unexpected side effects, and Alinna soon invades David's dreams. Through their intimate mental connection she allows him to express his forbidden physical desires.
     Alinna delights in the sensory exploration and grows excited by the prospect of a treaty with the humans and a potential life mate in David. But an attack from an unknown ship sends the base into chaos, and Alinna may be forced to reveal her lie, erasing all hope of a successful treaty, and driving David away forever...


This story is definitely established quickly and, in my opinion, efficiently. At the same time, there was apparent care and detail employed early on, enough to make the quick exposition feel thorough. Within the first few scenes, the reader has a sense of the alien(s) and their dynamic with humankind; the main characters are already engaging; and the groundwork is laid for the romantic dilemma that eventually carries the plot to the end.

The story keeps the scope controlled, manageable and focused. We follow the hero and heroine and learn only as much as is needed to understand their respective dilemmas and appreciate how they attempt to overcome them. Sure, there is a looming threat of the Inarrii's premature discovery by the human race--and thus the potential failure of any future treaties--but it's limited to Alinna's frame of reference.

In my opinion, this book falls somewhere in the erotic romance arena. The romance was nice and well developed…but man, the steam was incendiary. In fact, it just nudges at the boundaries a bit, and might catch some readers unaware (well, depending on one's boundaries). So head's up on that. Still, the development of the romantic aspect of the book was pretty clever, using unexpected methods (i.e., a kind of telepathy) to quickly build a deep connection between Alinna and David.

For the most part, the logic and explanations behind characters' decisions and actions were believable. Further along in the story, though, I did feel like the romantic development lost a bit of its great flow, and certain events were just bursting onto the page with seeming randomness, inexplicably there just to jump the plot from one point to another (a sudden, mysterious attack on a military compound comes to mind). A couple times I'd found some of the later explanations of developments a smidge blatant and unnecessary.

All told, though, this story is indeed solid and tightly written. The romance is developed via some intriguing means, and at times proves to be truly spicy. There's a lot of promise developed by the initial world-building; this book was more romance-focused than sci-fi focused, but I have a feeling the next installments will really draw out the very interesting sci-fi premise of this series. And I absolutely plan to find out first-hand how that goes. ^_^

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
"I really liked it."

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In Anticipation: The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater

Every once in a while, I come across a book that immediately and completely bowls me over merely by checking out its introductory matter--the title, the cover, and the book description. The latest book by Rhiannon Frater, The Last Bastion of the Living was one such book. Among a rash of well-written zombie fiction that's seen a nice level of popularity over the last few years, this one grabs attention with its science-fiction flavorings. Check out the blurb:
     The Bastion was humanity’s last hope against the fearsome undead creatures known as the Inferi Scourge. A fortified city with a high wall, surrounded by lush land rich with all the resources needed to survive, protected by high mountain summits, and a massive gate to secure the only pass into the valley, the Bastion became the last stronghold of the living on earth. But one fateful day, the gate failed and the Inferi Scourge destroyed the human settlements outside the walls and trapped the survivors inside the city. Now decades later, the last remaining humans are struggling to survive in a dying city as resources and hope dwindle.
     Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her whole life within the towering walls of steel. She yearns for a life away from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages, but there is no hope for anyone as long as the Inferi Scourge howl outside the high walls. Her only refuge from the daily grind is in the arms of her lover, Dwayne Reichardt, an officer in the Bastion Constabulary. Both are highly-decorated veterans of the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Their secret affair is her only happiness.
     Then one day Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge in the valley and close the gate. The rewards of success are great, but she will have to sacrifice everything, possibly even her life, to accomplish the ultimate goal of securing the future of humanity and saving it from extinction.

Aside from the fact that Rhiannon Frater is already known for her amazing As the World Dies post-apoocalyptic zombie-filled series (as well as for her dark urban fantasy books), just the premise of this book sounds so promising that it will most certainly be a topping many a "Best Of" list by year's end. What really draws me specifically is what looks like a well-developed, complex futuristic world. It's got order (the Bastion and its Vanguards) amongst chaos (the Inferi Scourge). It's got intense character relationships (Maria and Dwayne). It's got allusions to an epic adventure (the mission given to Maria by the Science Warfare Division). And best of all, it's got zombies. ^_^ I'm a HUGE fan of dystopians...when done right. I'm talking Brave New World right. Aftertime right. Feed right. As the World Dies right. ^_^ And this one has as much promise as any of those to be a wild ride.

The cover, in a word, is amazing. Visually striking even with the muted colors--perhaps even because of the sedate color scheme. The woman (warrior!) on the cover alludes to darkness, boldness, and lethal  ability. The murky clouds in the background appear animated with menace and threat. This cover is definitely not easily ignored. The cover artist is Claudia McKinney; bravo to you, ma'am! (As well as to the typographer, Ashley of Bookish Brunette Designs. Perfectly fits the sharp, futuristic feel of the book description).

The Last Bastion of the Living: A Futuristic Zombie Novel by Rhiannon Frater will be released on June 12, 2012.

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