Unclaimed
by Nathalie Gray, futuristic (2007)
Red Sage Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-6031-0140-0


It's 2407 EV, EV being Eva Vulgaris, whatever that means. The only "Eva Vulgaris" I can find using Google is a CD by the heavy metal group Queens of the Stone Age. Anyway, our heroine Maxine Fields celebrates Christmas alone in space. She's the captain (and only crew) of a spacecraft currently on its way to making a delivery, a job that will give Maxine a much-needed paycheck. Some time after having passed Uranus, she spots a pod while commiserating to herself over her solo status and unknowingly picks up the pod which is sending distress signals.

There is a hunk in that pod. The label on the pod marks him as an exiled criminal who had committed a long list of atrocities ranging from "defection" to "genocide". And the problem is, there is no way Maxine is getting this unwanted guest off her ship anytime soon. Then again, maybe Edmond Cabanesty isn't such a bad guy after all. Oh, who are we kidding? He's the hero. Of course he was framed! He is, however, not in a good mood. Waking up and realizing that about four hundred years had passed while he was in stasis can do that to a person.

"Stop!" he yelled again. His voice filled the corridor.

Cringing, she tucked her head into her shoulders and leaped for the ladder. One of her slippers flew off her foot. She slipped, banged her head against the metal rung, and cursed. She was up almost to the circular opening in the ceiling when thunder made her flinch. A bullet clunked right above her head.

"I swear," he yelled, his voice getting closer. "The next one will hurt!"

"It won't stop me!" she yelled back. For some reason, her brain had decided to go on holidays and leave her big mouth in charge of the toy factory.

"I'll shoot you in the ass! That ought to stop you!" He must have been right under her.

If the Road Runner and Wild E Coyote could speak, I imagine that the above will be pretty close to their typical conversation over dinner.

The really corny conversations in this story aside, I like Unclaimed right until the part where I am forcefully made to realize that this is meant to be an erotic story so whatever progress the story is making is halted in favor of sex scenes to meet the titillation quota, even if the sex scenes are taking place under circumstances that don't make a lot of sense. For example, I have a hard time believing that Maxine will be in the mood to use a vibrator on herself when there is a convicted mother of all genocidal defector badasses on board her ship. Or that, without much effort, she'll let him roger her when he inevitably stumbles upon the merry scene of her and her jolly ho-ho celebration. From that point onwards, the story goes down the drain where I am concerned because it is then sex, sex, sex, and more sex followed by a rushed resolution that happens in the two last pages.

A part of me will always wonder how fun this story could have been should the author take the time to build up the cat-and-mouse chase between her main characters while showing the developing bond of trust or something between them. But alas, with this being a short story and the compulsory sex scenes take up the space that could have gone to more necessary things like plot and character development, Unclaimed probably never had any chance of being anything more than a silly story catering mostly towards the cheap titillation of the reader.

Rating: 51


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