by CJ Barry, futuristic (2003)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52562-3

Unraveled has some decent ideas, but what little originality it has is nearly lost amidst the plethora of tired futuristic romance clichés present in abundance in the story. CJ Barry's writing is clean and this book is very easy to read, but it fails to offer anything new that previous formulaic futuristics have done so many times in the past.

Take a sexually neurotic "I must be pure! Must! Be! Pure!" heroine, Tru Van Dye, and give her a Daddy May Be Dead But He Must Love Me Now If I Do This mission to recover some alien artifacts in some faraway and presumably dangerous place. Make her enter a cantina (Star Wars has one, so every futuristic must have one) and make her order a strong drink and watch her gag. See her ask the hero Rayce Coburne for his help in a way that has him thinking she's a prostitute that is propositioning him. Make her gasp in outrage when she realizes that she gets no respect in a dirty stinking beer hole filled with rude men. Make him accept because he needs the money, but give him a reason to sing that "I want her, I will sleep with her, but I don't want her!" blues (his sister is killed in an incident that Rayce blames Tru's people - the Majjs - for). Have her fall in love with him, have him needless kick her away (see the blues above). Put in a deus ex machina that clears up all misunderstandings and solves every other problem encountered by our heroes. That's how CJ Barry followed the formula to come up with Unraveled.

The hero is a familiar bag of whine. The heroine is unbelievably clueless, especially about her sexuality. I mean, seriously, I don't remember Princess Leia whining so painfully about feeling sexy or having lusty passions the way Tru Van Dye does in this book. Both characters perform their share of silly antics as stereotypes following a set rule of behaviors tend to do.

I must give the author credit for holding the story together to create an entertaining read despite the high number of clichés present in this story. But while enjoyable, Unraveled is so formulaic at the same time that it doesn't break any new ground or venture into unchartered terrains. It seems quite disappointing to realize that while the number of futuristic romances have dwindled (although we'll see if Luna and Tor's new line will improve matters next year), the stories themselves don't seem to be heading anywhere into new directions or new risks. It sort of makes the phrase "futuristic romance" somewhat of an oxymoron, doesn't it?

Rating: 78

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