by Bonnie Dee, fantasy (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 1-59578-333-4
Ian Black looks like a nice guy but he beats people up when they won't pay their debts, steals wallets, and sells stolen electronic goods. While "negotiating" with a fellow entrepreneur, he comes across a woman fleeing from an armed man and ends up helping her escape. He really doesn't want to help her as he believes in self-preservation being more important than playing hero for a damsel-in-distress. The woman, who introduces herself as Mirabai Kashi, claims to be from an organization called KOTE and that she has an important oh-so-mysterious box that she needs to hand over to KOTE. She sounds like a crackpot, doesn't she? When Mira claims that she knows right from the start that he could hear her calling for help inside his head and that she's a Keeper, she's definitely a crackpot in Ian's opinion.
Things work in mysterious synergy in Measure Of A Man, Bonnie Dee's contribution to the Terran Realm series, as Ian who doesn't believe in spiritual ying-yang peace-in-mind stuff meets Mira who is a spiritual healer. She tells him that she is investigating a fraud New Age spiritual TV personality even as earlier that very day he scoffed at a TV ad from that fraud. Ian doesn't want to play the hero and Mira doesn't want to impose, but they aren't going to be rid of the other person so easily in this story.
Measure Of A Man manages to balance chase and action scenes with quieter scenes very nicely. The story moves along on a most enjoyable pace and there are some interesting developments in the storyarc that have me intrigued enough to want to know more. This story, however, is also a well-written tale of reluctant heroism from Ian that I find most enjoyable to read. Ms Dee could have been more subtle in trying to redeem Ian, I suppose - that "underneath that tortured soul, he's an artist" angle is overused and pretty trite - but Ms Dee also does a good job in not shoving a "he's just misunderstood" agenda down my throat. Instead, the message where Ian is concerned is that he can be a good guy given the opportunity and I'm not asked to overlook his flaws just because he has a sad past. I like that.
For a "I know you are a good guy, I can feel it!" heroine, Mira is far more level-headed and smart than I would expect. Normally heroines with an ability like hers would be bad Counselor Troi wannabes in other stories but here I am given the impression by Ms Dee that Mira uses her gift to discern that Ian can be a good guy and because Mira is good at what she does, that's why she has confidence in Ian. Again, I like that.
Measure Of A Man is a solidly-written and enjoyable story with a reluctant hero and a sensible heroine as well as a plot that never flags or falters from start to finish. After a rather shaky start, things seem to be looking up for the Terran Realm series.
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