A guest review by Sirius.
An interesting scifi romance where I felt the attraction between two main characters sparkled too fast, but by the end of the story I believed in their future.
Sniper Sergeant Marc Staille and his trusty rifle, Mat, are on bodyguard duty at a mining operation on a backwater planet. The resource-rich valley is crawling with tawnies, the native dirt-colored predators. Huge things that hunt in packs and kill as well with tooth and claw as Marc ever has with Mat.
The rules change when a tawny uses an unexpected weapon: pheromones.
Commander Hamm Orsonna, leader of the fefa clan, is determined to chase off the invading aliens. The one he sets out to capture for intel is scrawny and hairless, not very intimidating—until it takes out his entire squad. Seasoned warriors, felled from halfway down the valley by its metal death stick.
Their sacrifice may be worth it, though. The alien male smells like he’s interested in making things right. He smells of other things too, but nobody else seems to notice. Before long, Hamm finds himself fighting off his own kind to defend the alien, who might be his people’s only hope for peace, and Hamm’s only chance for happiness.
I wanted to read another story by this writer ever since I read “Blacker Than Black”. The meeting between humans and aliens is not a particularly unique set up, but it is a set up I usually enjoy a lot and am always eager to see what an author who decides to tackle it up will bring up to the table. Since this story hinted at romance, I was even more eager.
As you can see from the blurb this meeting does not start on a peaceful note, but eventually it changes to two cultures negotiating for peaceful coexistence. In a sense I thought the writer made her/his job easier because the human attempt to invade in this story is not dictated by an actual desire to invade, but more by the fact that the planet has a lot of natural resources to offer and they do not realize that sentient species inhabit it. Once they do realize it, they do not try to proceed by force.
Of course everybody was still suspicious of each other and but for Marc trying to smooth the tension hostilities could have probably started again, but what I am trying to say is that I did not get an impression that the humans’ mindset in this book needed to do a 360 degrees turn around. It is not like they set up to destroy the sentient beings and had to realize that this was a horrible thing to do. Not that the killing of the animals who live on the planet is a good thing to do, but I am just saying that I did not feel that a paradigm shift occurred for the human beings in this book. As soon as they have all the necessary information they at least try to change their behavior.
What I described above was first and foremost the settings for the developing romance between Marc and alien commander Hamm. While I eventually liked them together I thought that their instant attraction was hilarious to the point of being silly and it took me few chapters to get used to it. Basically Hamm looks like a giant cat. Why would the writer expect me to believe that Marc who just thought of Hamm and his people as mindless predators who need to be eradicated, would be aroused by Hamm’s scent just a few pages later?
You would ask me whether I am just not used to the pairings between an alien who does not look remotely like a human and human? And I will tell you that while I cannot say that I am willing to imagine the union between a human being and any species who does not look humanoid (I shudder to imagine for example a giant cockroach making love to a human. I think I would scream bloody murder and run away), the sex scene between the alien who looks like a giant feline and the human does happen in one of my very favorite books in this genre. I NEVER wanted that couple to leave each other in that book. So I am 100% sure that this was absolutely would not have been a problem for me in this book either. I just did not buy Marc’s instant attraction to the alien. Did he have a lover before who looked like Hamm does? Did he know anything at all about these beings, anything that would have made him curious, wanting to get to know them better, something that caused such fast attraction?
I mean, I understand that Hamm used pheromones and that was causing the initial attraction, I got that. But pheromones or no pheromones, I still felt that their attraction was unbelievably fast. In essence their bond resembled a mating bond for me and in this set up it felt disappointing. I felt especially disappointed because the more Hamm and Marc learned about each other and saw that they have more in common than not, the more I was actually buying their growing attraction. We learn that both of these guys are honorable people, soldiers who do not want to be mindless killers and who would do anything, sacrifice anything for the welfare of their people. They are starting to like each other as “persons” and I as a reader started to like them together too, a lot. By the end of the book I was completely sold on them as a couple and I guess I felt that “bond” was just an unnecessary extra.