by Eve Kenin, futuristic (2007)
Shomi, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-505-52709-7
Driven is a disappointment of sorts after following the previous two releases under the Shomi imprint because this is a very generic and even formulaic romantic adventure. In the context of the romance genre, this one with its post-apocalyptic world is probably still a novelty of sorts, but to anyone who has watched Mad Max or any action movie set in a similar setting, this one may be yet another so-so story with many elements that feel too familiar at times. The romance is also the most recognizable here, but to me, it is easily the most boring aspect of the story because it feels underwritten and routine.
I'm never given an actual date when this story takes place, but it takes place clearly after 2089. Fuel is at an all-time low and the world has been inevitably changed by one too many wars. In other words, welcome to the Thunderdome, bitch. Our heroine Raina Bowen is a trucker who is on what is supposed to be a routine delivery trip but turns out to be a race (don't ask - it's a long story). She will meet up with someone called Wizard whom she'd never seen before in an inn to help her go on her way when this guy ends up antagonizing the hoodlums of the Evil Corporation That Rules Everything and she has to step in and save him. Wizard, understandably, thinks that the woman who has taken the trouble to rescue him from a fight is clearly looking for sex and behaves accordingly for the standard Wrong First Impressions thing. As the two embark on a road trip, Wizard embroils Raina into a plot that she has no clear inkling of as they both go up against a cartoon bad guy.
Wizard and Raina have all kinds of standard angsts and issues involving complicated sibling woes and all kinds of Noble Reasons to get into trouble and angst endlessly over things. Their baggages are quite similar in a way, which could facilitate some nice emotional bonding, but author Eve Kenin is more interested in having her characters lust rather than feel. The relationship between Wizard and Raina can be summed up quite simply. They want each other bad, and as the story progresses, they decide that they are in love although I have no idea how these two come to the conclusion. But Wizard is using Raina, oh, but Raina is amazingly understanding even when Wizard could have easily gotten her killed without asking her to sign the dotted line in some "I agree to be a pawn" contract, so yeah, it's love and happy ending as every angst and issue they have is conveniently cleared and solved at the end of the day.
It's all pretty boring to me. There is nothing particularly wrong or unreadable about Driven, let me make this clear. Raina isn't the most feisty heroine I have come across, but compared to some of the heroines of the historical romances by this author (written under the name Eve Silver) that I have read prior to this book, Raina is pure gold. Wizard is a standard Guy With Issues. He's bland but he's not annoying. He's kind of just being there. But somehow their romance feels underdeveloped and the characters come off as merely going through the motions where love and what-not are concerned.
The world building is fine and there is a welcome lack of cheese factor. Which is to say, no silly sex-for-greater-good nonsense taking place here, for example. However, there is nothing really innovative or memorable about the setting either. Once I have seen enough post-apocalyptic action movies, I have seen everything the author has to offer me in terms of world-building in Driven.
I have a hunch that readers who find the previous two Shomi books too much on the science-fiction or cyberpunk side will find Driven a more easier book to enjoy since this is easily the most accessible book in the Shomi imprint so far. Personally, I'm disappointed by the lack of innovation in this story. That's okay, we can't always be visionaries and trend-setters. But that still leaves the ho-hum romance and the author's use of angsts and baggages to replace character development for me to sigh over.
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