Unleashed
by CJ Barry, futuristic (2004)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52573-9


The heroine Lacey Garrett in CJ Barry's latest futuristic Unleashed is too stupid at times. This is one book where the heroine starts out helpless and stupid and ends up discovering herself enough to be independent, proactive... and still stupid. Well, two out of three isn't that bad, I guess. But other than that, this story is a fast-paced slice of cheese.

Computer programmer Lacey Garrett's love life is like a Greek tragedy. Her Mr Wrong dumped her after stealing her work and clients. Now bereft of a solid reputation in the business as well as love, Lacey is wallowing in self-pity even as she scrambles to save her business. Then one night she answers an email from Zain Masters, only to realize that he's actually an alien fellow trapped in what seems like a deserted planet. Zain believes that Lacey will know how to help him get off that planet and so zaps her to his (direly in need of repairs) spacecraft.

As Lacey does her fish out of water act, Godzilla monsters (which is not a sexual reference to Zain in any way; we are talking about actual slavering, drooling, mean monsters here and seriously, I'm not making this up) pop into the story and start causing trouble. There is also a problem of Zain being on the run from the law (which explains why he doesn't just zap himself to the local police station and ask for directions). So our hero and heroine have to fall in love, repair the spacecraft, clear his name, smash the villains, and survive the local flora and fauna. No big deal.

Zain is a stock space action man hero. He could be a misunderstood outlaw in a Western romance or a FBI agent trying to clear his name, and he'll still be who he is, Zain Masters, a pretty generic hero. Lucy starts out ditsy, mopey, and whiney. I want to cheer when she starts pulling herself together and start grabbing hold of laser guns, only to cringe when I realize that it's just like watching a dopey chimpanzee finally being happy again by getting her paws on an AK-47. Watch out, she's gonna shoot!

Lucy is a Mary Sue heroine: she gets by by being ditzy and cute and she's loved for it. If she actually does something well, it's usually by an "Oops! Omigosh, did I do that? Squeal!" precious moment thingie. I still don't know what to think of Lacey's Grand Action late in the story. I think I should be applauding her, but that's like saying that I should be happy for someone who has finally obtained her driving license after smashing the car a few times into a tree. I'm tempted to throw a pity at-last-the-misery-is-over party for her instead, preferably one with plenty of alcohol so that she will be too intoxicated to do anything more strenuous than to lie on the table and snore.

Still, the pacing is fast and the story tumbles towards the happy ending in an enjoyable way, sort of like a dated 1970s B-grade sci-fi flick shown on the Sci-Fi channel during late night rerun marathons. As futuristics go, at least Lacey isn't a ridiculously ignorant psychic healer and while she's on the ditz side, at least she does experience some emotional growth from being a loser to being a loser that tries to better herself. There's hope for her yet. As for Zain, he's alright. There are ten thousand space dudes like him flying around in space in Planet Romance, but he's alright. And come to think of it, Unleashed is alright. It's not the best futuristic I've read, but there are many worse ones out there too.

Rating: 79


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