by Cheryl Brooks, futuristic (2008)
Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-1192-8
Cheryl Brooks' Slave is like a Robin D Owens story given the "cutting edge" first person narration technique to pass it off as an urban fantasy type of romance. And since a Robin D Owens story very often tries too hard to pass itself off as something written by Dara Joy, oi vey, Slave has a "Don't I remind you of something that reminds you of another thing?" feel to it. But it does have a first-person narration, for what little that is worth, I suppose.
Our Earth human heroine Jacinth roams around space, looking for her sister. She tracks her down to the planet of Statzeel at long last. In that place, all women are kept as slaves so Jack can't exactly go around asking questions. No, she needs a "slaver" of her own to aid her.
This is where our hero Cat comes in. Yes, the heroine is Jack, the hero is Cat. Try not to get confused. Cat believes that he is the last of his species, a race of oh-I-have-never-read-that-before feline humanoids. Of course, he's not the last, or else there won't be a sequel. The poor dear is nothing more than a slave for sale until Jack buys him from his captivity. But that man won't cooperate until Jack washes her hands off him and sets him loose. He then decides to stick around and actually help her out because he doesn't want to be indebted to her. And that is when my forehead hits the desk.
The whole premise has nothing inventive as this is another futuristic story where the world-building borrows heavily from campy barbarian-type science fiction movies and pulp comics from the 1950s and 1960s with a heavy dose of where-have-I-seen-that-before horny-cat-heroes thrown in for good measure. The author doesn't ameliorate the unoriginal feel of her story by trying too hard to be precious and funny, as if she wants me to confuse her with Dara Joy or something. Unfortunately for Ms Brooks, her story is all over the place, thanks to a first person narrator that is inconsistent.
Jack starts off like a halfway capable person, but it isn't long before she has turned into this dim-witted twit who can barely do anything right. Jack doesn't have any decent back-up plan and is completely lost when things go even a little wrong, for example, so I can easily imagine how this woman spent the last six years on a wild goose chase. For someone who started out as a supposedly hardened woman of the world, Jack soon turns out to be naïve like a thirteen-year old girl. A randy and horny thirteen-year old, mind you, which can be a pretty scary thing to read indeed.
The first person narration veers into either one of two extremes. A more serious Jack will result in lots of internal monologues that border on hysteria and peppered with so many exclamation marks that it is as if a nervous breakdown is coming to claim the poor dear. A more "romantic" Jack will see the first person narration going down the slippery slope into cringe-inducing baby talk and juvenile "dirty" phrases that remind me very much of the other author who is also trying to pass herself off as Dara Joy.
As for Cat, the poor man doesn't have much of a character development due to the first person narration in this story. He's a standard randy cat-man hero though, right down the whole "I see you and I know you are mine!" shortcuts authors love to use as a substitute for relationship development. He is pretty much merely a sex object and muscle power with an impressive erection here.
I find Slave hard to get into due to the irritating first person narration voice and the way this book is cobbled together so obviously from proven bestselling trends. I can try to overlook the irritating heroine if there are some interesting takes on the various familiar elements in this story, but alas, I don't find any. With its double combo of a dumb bunny heroine I can't get away from and a story that is devoid of originality, Slave is certainly one joyless read indeed.
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