by Gini Koch, fantasy (2010)
DAW, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7564-0600-4
I should love a book like Gini Koch's Touched By An Angel, since I am always up for a rollicking if rather campy romp involving aliens in the comedy action style comparable to the Men In Black franchise. Unfortunately, the execution of the story leaves me feeling oddly indifferent to the proceedings in this story.
One day, Katherine "Kitty" Katt - who has heard all the jokes by now, thanks very much for asking - witnesses a man transform into a... winged monstrous thing... before her very eyes and start mowing down people around him. Strictly on impulse, she slays that creature using a Mont Blanc pen. Before she knows it, here comes the men in black - all of them gorgeous - to bring her to their top secret headquarters to reveal that they are actually the good aliens while the thing Kitty had slain is an example of a human infected by parasitic bad aliens. She has exhibited unexpected skill in slaying those things, so she's now recruited to the good alien side, whether she likes it or not. Fortunately, handsome alien Jeff Martini is there to provide some loving in her Area 51.
I like the canon of this story, but the story never comes to life to me. The thing is, this tale is not exciting. It's boring, before after Kitty's initial impressive show of alien-whopping kung-fu skills, the story slows down and becomes bogged down by pages after pages after pages of exposition. This is not a romance novel, so I am not too put off by the fact that the romance between Kitty and Jeff is as shallow as a puddle of goo left by a dead alien, but the author spends so much on these two in the middle parts of the story, she could have just written a romance novel. Since the romance between Kitty and Jeff never credibly develops beyond lust at first sight, all that drama between them feels shallow and frivolous - just filler, in other words.
When the story finally dials up the action, things don't become any better, as the developments in these final few chapters are so convoluted that even the action scenes become bogged down by more exposition as Kitty spends a lot of time explaining things to the people around her.
It also doesn't help that Kitty and Jeff are one-dimensional characters more at home in comic books. These two characters do not exhibit any genuine vulnerable emotions such as fear. No matter what situation we put them in, Kitty is always in "on" mode, making sarcastic remarks as if she's paid a dollar for each line, while Jeff is the Pepé Le Pew version of a GQ model - he's always making sexist or innuendo-laden remarks to Kitty no matter what the situation is. Their routine gets really predictable and tedious after a few chapters because their routine is all there is to their characters.
The shallow characters would be fine if there are plenty of exciting explosions and breathless action scenes to make up for the lack. Unfortunately, Touched By An Alien is pretty much an entire book full of exposition. Without great action drama or compelling characters, this one really struggles to make it to the finish line.
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