Contact
by Susan Grant, fantasy (2002)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52499-6


I've been puzzling over what Wal*Mart found so offensive about this book that they demanded a rewrite from Susan Grant. No, the hero is not affiliated to the Talibans, and nobody walk into the sunset with the Taliban national anthem playing in the background. The only crime this book can be accused of - and that's stretching it, actually - is its discrimination against albinos by portraying them as nasty intergalactic grandkids of, I don't know, maybe Saddam Hussein.

Or maybe Wal*Mart really believe that romance readers are fragile creatures that will surely die if someone mentions "airplane" and "danger" in the same sentence. Maybe Dumb*Nuts are idiots, plain and simple.

Because Contact, in my opinion, is a fine story. It's what I wish more science-fiction/fantasy romances will take after. Sure, Contact has its shares of flaws, but it entertains superbly without slapping me in the face with annoying issues like virginity, purity, and weak helpless mind-reading heroines. Look, I've made contact with intelligent lifeforms on Planet Romance, woo-hoo.

A freak storm that causes time/continuum thingies to bend sends the 747 which our heroine Jordan Cady is First Officer of to be sucked up by a giant spacecraft. Oops, the captain's heart gave in and Jordan finds herself the new Captain of 293 terrified passengers and crew. What is a tough lady to do? Rally the troops, that's what, and stand tough against the enemy. Instead of punishing Susan Grant, Dumb*Nuts should be calling up the airline folks to give this author a medal, because if all airline crew are as capable as Jordan, even Bruce Willis will be inspired to fly again. Jordan is one tough cookie, and even as she wants to go home and see her daughter again, she will be tough for the people around her, and damn right she does! My heroine, bravo.

The guys in the aircraft are actually human beings from a faraway planet who don't mean them any harm. Kào Vantaar-Moray is our hero and he ends up playing the intermediary between Jordan and her folks and his own people. They have some bad news for Jordan: Earth is destroyed and Jordan and the rest of the 747 are the only Earthlings left. As Jordan and the rest of the Earthlings try to settle down and understand their new surroundings, things get complicated when nasty people try to undermine the aliens' Alliance from within. In the midst of it all, Kào and Jordan learns that in space, there are many fun ways to say "Let's do the nasty, baby!"

Susan Grant delivers a very nice, well-paced story here. The science fiction elements aren't too deep, but more than enough to prevent the setting from being mere wallpaper. Some fantasy romances are so vague and wishy-washy that I have a hard time escaping into the author's world, but not so here. It really feels like traveling among the stars here. There's excitement, there's danger, and there's the whole sense of loss, bewilderment, and finally, unity in danger among the 747s, all nicely done here.

The passion thing is another story though. Jordan is one tough babe - readers tired of mind-reading wailing virginal healers of dingbattiness that swamp the fantasy romance genre, all bow down to Susan Grant - and Kào isn't too bad as the tormented hero who has no idea just how much he could actually feel for the others around him. But the author chooses to make these people find love too easy, I find, and I find it rather difficult to believe that instantaneous attraction can happen in a premise such as the one in Contact. But because this story is so fun, I am willing to go along for the ride.

There are some things I find implausible - for example, how could anyone miscalculate Earth's coordinates and then not double-check like that? Even a religion requires a prophet and several generations of faithful writing (or garbling, depending on the way you believe things) and preaching before it becomes enshrined, and that's one planet. We're talking about an alliance of several planets here, and it's rather implausible that everybody in several planets will believe the words of a great hero and leave it at that.

Anyway, who cares? In the romantic fantasy subgenre currently saturated by authors who care more about sex and sex and sex rather than the actual elements of fantasy, it's nice to see authors like Susan Grant taking up where the likes of Justine Davis left off when they left for greener pastures. Contact may not overdose on vampire sex, but it tells a good story, it is well-written and there is brainpower at work here. Wal*Mart may be too dumb to know a good story if it bitchsmacks them in the face, but Contact is actually a nice, fun, and very good story that inspires for all the right reason.

Susan Grant - universe - bright star. You fill in the blanks. I'm eagerly awaiting the next take-off to Susan Grant's Planet of Fun And Romance.

Rating: 89


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