by Colby Hodge, futuristic (2006)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52628-X
Colby Hodge's Shooting Star is a most readable futuristic story that feels just a little bit dated. Which is to say, it is more comparable to science-fiction stuff from the 1970s and 1980s rather than the high-tech science-fiction stuff of today. A little bit of nostalgia is never a bad thing, of course.
Ruben is a happy-go-lucky free-dealing, free-wheeling, and free-loving fellow who runs around space getting into all kinds of trouble. However, he is actually Prince Rubikhan Benjamin of Amanor. He left his home once it becomes clear that he's so far down the inheritance line that he may as well strike out on his own. However, when his father, the Emperor, is assassinated, he learns that he's somehow framed for it. On the run and on his way to find his brother (whom he dreams early on in this story about getting into trouble), he is attacked and his spacecraft crashes onto the planet Lavign, where he meets our heroine Tess and her son Boone.
The characters in this story are very well-written, even if they aren't particularly original in any way. Ruben is an entertaining fellow with a nice balance of reckless charm and unexpected maturity when it comes to protecting Tess and Boone. He's that fellow that will get you into trouble and yet you can trust him when he says that he will take care of things. I like this guy. Tess is also a nicely written heroine. Her past is pretty standard for a tortured heroine but she never allows herself to become a victim. She's all about trying to survive without being a martyr and I like her. There is also a Newf pet, Ky, whose function is to become the Lassie of this story.
The plot of Shooting Star, however, is a disappointment as it is so predictable and free of suspense. The villains are cartoon characters, ugly ones too while the good guys are all beautiful and noble. The bad guy wanting to seize the throne of Amanor is obvious even in the prologue while poor Tess is stuck in a tired "Help me, I surrounded by rapists!" plot.
There is a dime-novel feel to Shooting Star. I personally like the Tattooine-meets-Arrakis setting of this story but readers yearning for something more cyberpunk may have better luck with the Shomi line. However, the characters of this story end up being too good for the tired and derivative storyline. Because of the storyline, Shooting Star ends up being less memorable than it could have been. This one is most readable and is more than adequate for a few hours of pleasant entertainment, but I'm sure it could have been so much more. Maybe next time, Ms Hodge.
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