by Catherine Spangler, futuristic (2001)
LoveSpell, $5.50, ISBN 0-505-52452-X

Isn't it sad? Futuristic romances like Shamara, set amidst the stars and wonderful new worlds, just have to concentrate on one very pertinent aspect of the plot: the heroine's virginity. What the... come on, we are talking about interstellar galaxies here. New cultures, new plots, new laws of physics. All authors like Catherine Spangler can think about is how the heroine is going to pop her cherry?

Shall I be insulted? Or shall I just start reading books marketed as science fiction for some classy sci-fi romance instead? Because Shamara - which means "sanctuary" in the hero's tongue - is nothing more than a cheesy B-grade scifi shtick that cares more about T&A than anything else.

Our heroine Eirene Kane is an Enhancer, which means she can increase one's emotions. To what good use does she use her gifts? To increase the hero's hotties, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Like all bad futuristic novels, she has to come from a world where women have no rights, bla bla bla, and she has been sold to some tribe who wants her for her virginity. She must lose it, now! Instead of buying a futuristic vibrator, going horse (or whatever equivalent in that world) riding most vigorously, or heck, buying a Gigolo Joe, she runs away to some distant planet to join a brothel.

Here, our hero Jarek san Ranul is a Shielder (refresher course here) who is looking for some space portal to lead his people to a new world, away from evil Controllers. He boinks and plucks our heroine's cherry, and realize, yikes, she's an Enhancer who can help him! He chases her, kidnaps her, and, well, it's a road trip from here.

Shamara, like most of this authors' stuff, is still readable. But it's yet another one of those cheesy sci-fi/barbarian-sex-stories hybrid, where women are again the scantily-clad clinging-to-the-hero's-tree-trunk-legs ornaments to be rescued. When I think of all those books I read in my science-fiction days, where women fly spacecrafts, kick ass, and handle firearms like a Trekkie fan boy's wet dream, I can't help feeling disappointed though. When it can soar among the stars, Shamara prefers to focus on the heroine's "alluring innocence" and "virginity" like a lecherous old man instead. How sad, truly.

Rating: 70

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