Thursday, February 21, 2008

MOONSTRUCK by Susan Grant

I don’t know how you all will react, but, frankly, reading MOONSTRUCK scared the ba-jeebers outta me. I mean, what if I was a wet-eared ensign newly assigned to the Unity with Admiral Bandar and War Leader Rorkkan as my commanding officers and I knew everything you’ll know about these two when you read this novel? Captain Janeway and John Wayne, they ain’t. If you’re looking for a fluffy romance, this won’t be your cup of tea. However, if you’re looking for a tale of Intimate Adventure and the salvation and healing of true love, you’ll have MOONSTRUCK stuck to your nose until you’re finished reading.
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Admiral Brit Bandar is a battle-hardened starship commander and the war is over. She’s suffered a lot and carries around a massive open wound on her heart – the death of her husband and all the men she’s slept with trying to bury the pain since. Now, she’s been assigned to command a diplomatic ship, the Unity, and a former enemy is to be her First Officer. All at once, Rorkkan’s got the face of the enemy Horde and her dead husband too. Brit is not a happy camper. Meanwhile, Rorkkan can hardly think straight around her because the brain in his skull has been out-gunned by the other one.
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So off they go into the Wild Black Yonder on the Unity and Rorkkan senses right away that Brit wants the mission to fail. Well, she loathes his kind, so that’s no surprise. What throws him off is having sensed something else in her regard for him, something she keeps under tight reign. We know it’s that he resembles her dead husband and the creepiness coupled with attraction that brings, but he doesn’t.
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At this point, I’d be screaming, “We’re all gonna die!”
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I mean, how the heck are these two going to work together as command officers? Besides being former enemies, they’re both just incredibly screwed up. You all probably know I like that.
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I started feeling sorry for Brit, because I sensed a well-hidden humiliation in her. What I mean to say is she had true love once upon a time and the dignity and beauty that brings. It was viciously taken from her. She buried the pain with sex, just as many bury pain with drugs or alcohol. However, she’s not an addict. She still feels the pain. This is a good thing. It seems to me, in Real Life, when people don’t deal with the pain, they bury it until they go numb. Once that happens, they become *incapable of comprehending true love* when it finally finds them again. {I know it’s not impossible for someone at that point to recover, but I’ve personally never seen it.} Brit isn’t to that point. She still feels the pain. She is *not beyond redemption.* I’m not sure if that’s what the author intended, but that’s how I interpreted it based on my own observations of humanity.
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There’s a secondary romance between a Lieutenant Hadley and an Earthling. At first, I thought this was extraneous and I just hoped Hadley wasn’t stupid. I thought, “Geez, Hadley, he’s a jackass. Make him reform and prove his worth first.” But, then, I found out Hadley idolizes Brit and then she accidentally-on-purpose discovers a momento from Brit's past which indicates an even deeper pain. Ut-oh. A dearly loved husband wasn’t the only thing Brit lost.
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Okay, the stage is set. The characters are established. Time to up the ante.
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The first goes up when Brit decides to use Rorrkan the same way she used all the men before him but after her dead husband. Only, it backfires big time, because it’s not just a roll in the hay. There’s love somewhere in there too. Now, she’s really a freaking mess.
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I’d be sayin, “Yep, we’re dead. We’re all dead. Might as well fly this ship right into a super-nova.”
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Because, of course, the commanding officers of the Unity have to deal with commanding the Unity while their heads are still reeling with their personal issues. Oh, dear. Healing is scary and painful because the grief must be faced head-on. Sure, Brit’s courageous in battle, but the heart can be a much more frightening place.
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Although this novel is a Science Fiction Romance, I really didn’t get into the romancey part of it. Weird, huh? It’s because Rorrkan isn’t the kind of guy I ever would have gone for. If Rorrkan was real and I was single and he offered to buy me a café’ moche with a double shot of crème de mint, I’d say, “Um, thanks, no. But, hey! My boss is sitting over there all by herself and I happen to know she’s verrrry thirsty.” Wink. “Go get ‘er, Tiger.” For me, the story was all about Brit.
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In fact, about a month ago Jacqueline Lichtenberg, whom I admire and respect immensely, reviewed MOONSTRUCK and I totally didn’t get the same impression. I didn’t see Brit as having a greater sexual appetite than the average woman. I know Brit thinks she does, but I didn’t buy it. Up until Rorrkan, sex simply meant something different to her than it does to a woman in a loving, monogamous relationship. From my point of view, Brit’s relationship with Rorrkan was inevitable. The wound on her heart had never healed and had never been buried because, sub-consciously, she still clung to *Hope.* The fact that a relationship with Rorrkan was ‘forbidden’ in Brit’s mind made it necessary. It wasn’t a case of the Forbidden being attractive because it is forbidden and it wasn’t a case of being attracted to someone despite that person being Forbidden. Rorrkan represented the pain in Brit’s heart and she instinctively knew that. She embraced the pain and she won.
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MOONSTRUCK has enough dimensions to keep everyone happy. For those who are totally into it, you’ll have to read it at least twice to get the full impact.
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Way to go, Susan.
;)
The Heat Level of this novel is Highly Sensual, but appropriate to the story and consistent with the characters.
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MOONSTRUCK hits the shelves May 25th, but you can pre-order it now. Here's Susan's website to learn more- http://susangrant.com/

7 comments:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg said...

Kimber An:

Very nice review, and it'll probably sell some books. But it is written not as a "review" but as comments and gut responses of a reader -- not of a writer.

Here are some comments and gut responses of a writer, not a reader. (neither being more interesting than the other, of course)

Firstly, where in the plot you "up the ante" and how much you up it, has to do with the plot-outlines for the sequels. Susan's teasing us, and doing a great job of it. When she pulled that punch, I screamed SEQUEL COMING - I CAN'T WAIT!!!

You can't shoot all your ammunition in the first book and not have the middle book of the trilogy sag. That's why, when she telegraphed SEQUEL, I jumped for joy -- the middle won't sag.

Sequels are a recent addition to the Romance field. Writers are still feeling their way into audience tolerance of the series-structure paradigms.

Secondly, this particular book is forging a niche in the FIELD -- so the content of the story or the reader's opinion of the characters is irrelevant to the achievement of having written such a book and gotten it published.

Thirdly, most of us have had the experience of having our careers if not our very lives depend on the sanity of a pair of superiors or employers -- knowing full well they aren't any saner than the rest of us. (Just look at the Presidential campaigns. 'nuff said.) So this book is actually "ripped from the headlines."

Fourthly, this book is SF. The essence of romance is love. Much has been written on the female exogamous tendencies being the saving of our species. That applies to psychological differences as well as cultural.

This series is launching into a very "Susan Grant-ish" examination of the depths of those cultural and psychological drives. She's going to take us apart into tinker-toys. Don't underestimate this author. Her books are a tonic.

You can't love if you can't face truth. You can, however, experience romance and still ignore truth (for a while). True love is romance that lasts after the haze lifts.

I think reading this series may just take some of us to a point where the haze lifts and we find ourselves much more capable of love than ever before.

This book distinguishes itself and Susan from the ordinary, the majority, the norm.

It is outstanding in the fields (SF and Romance) for none of the reasons you site.

As for being scared to find our leaders in such psychological ruin, well -- I like to pretend to more courage than that.

If the moderator approves it, a post of mine on the WGA strike answering Harlan Ellison's post on the subject should appear maybe tomorrow at
http://unitedhollywood.blogspot.com/2008/02/harlan-ellison-reacts-to-proposed-wga.html

And that post of mine pretty much sums up my attitude toward leadership that doesn't quite measure up to my standards of who I want to lead me.

If you've been following the WGA strike negotiations, (SFWA came out in support of the strike) or read Harlan's comment, you'll see the similarity to this real life situation and Susan's fantasy situation. (fantasy? hmmm)

Since that's the case, my response to Susan Grant's pair of leaders differs from yours.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://www.simegen.com/jl/
http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/

Kimber An said...

Whoa, Jacqueline. You always blow me away!

I think the fact that there can be so many takes on MOONSTRUCK is a comment in itself on the story.
;)

Kimber An said...

P.S. I didn't get the telegraphed SEQUEL message either.

Although, for most of the book I was sure Brit's first family wasn't...um...I'll just keep the rest of that sentence to myself.
;)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg said...

Readers can always find something interesting to say about a book - even one that fails (or especially one that fails?). And even a so-so book can win a Hugo.

When the writers start talking to each other about the writing - you have a Nebula nominee. That's a totally different standard of excellence.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://www.simegen.com/jl/
http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/

Kimber An said...

But would any SFR novel have a shot at the Nebula? I thought the regular Sci-Fi crowd didn't recognize SFR as being one of the gang.

Anyway, the purpose of this blog is readers connecting with readers to find the books they'll love. Awards are nice, but nothing compares with a reader's enthusiasm for a story, I think. That's magic.

Laurie said...

Quite a lengthy commentary on this one. I'm intrigued, as I'm just finishing Susan Grant's HOW TO LOSE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL IN 10 DAYS and my appetite has been whet for more of her work.

I'm particularly interested (*perk*) in the discussion of sequels in the romance field (especially Sci Fi) since I have two in the hopper.

Thanks for posting this review, Kimber, and to Jacqueline as well for bringing her take on MOONSTRUCK to the mix. I'll have to pre-order it.

Kimber An said...

Thanks for popping in, Laurie. I hope you have time to review as well.
;)