Close Contact (Alien Affairs, Book 2)
A fast-growing subgenre of science fiction exploits a melding of sci-fi and romance. While some of these novels are little more than high-tech bodice rippers, others incorporate solid plotlines. Katherine Allred’s Close Contact focuses on plot and goes light on the romance.
Echo Adams was genetically engineered to be an entertainer; she organizes parties for the Galactic Federation’s most important people. But when others discover that her genetic makeup predisposes her to unknown and possibly dangerous psi powers, she’s reassigned to the Bureau of Alien Affairs and sent out as a field agent.
Her first mission takes her to Madrea, a world on which technology is banned. A quartz-dwelling alien has been kidnapped and taken there; if it gets free, its anger could destroy the entire solar system. Only her untapped psi abilities have a chance of navigating alien politics and preventing an unthinkable disaster.
Echo’s greatest ally is the army’s commander, whose seductive charms are quite a distraction.
Allred strikes a good balance between her main characters and the supporting cast, and she excels with her nonhuman characters. Most notably, her charming dragon birds never overshadow the main plot, but they add a note of humor and lightheartedness to the tale. Most of the rest of the cast is human, but this story doesn’t need strange aliens to establish its setting.
Close Contact features a blend of lighthearted character interaction and serious plot. This is one of the book’s strongest features: It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also doesn’t devolve into farce. Nor does the humor clash with the heavier parts. All in all, it’s a lot of fun.
Close Contact is a science fiction fan’s equivalent of a beach read: fast, light and full of action. Kick back and enjoy this one.
Also by this author: Close Encounters
This review originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on July 15, 2010.