Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3798-9
Sci-fi Romance, 2017
One of the problems of a series that is basically a phallus-worship collect-them-all action hero showcase is that, eventually, it stops being a series altogether, and turns instead into yet another excuse for the author to introduce more hot action heroes for readers to slobber and drool over. Every hero is hot, chiseled, impossibly strong, supremely virile, forever ready to have sex with you (and you, and you, and you, and you, and every member of the author’s street team and mailing lists plus their grandmothers as well). The heroine becomes some thinly-written blank slate with the occasional sassy quips and fiery sass while always functioning as a placeholder for the reader’s heart-pounding need to be ravished by these heroes.
And each book introduces more of these heroes, so that readers will hyperventilate and gasp, “I want to have sex with these guys too, so I will buy those books! Oh, my loins can’t take it, I am going to explode – I need to order that special showerhead the author is selling on her website right away!”
Or. at least, I suppose that’s what these authors are hoping to happen when they do these things to their series. As for me, I am not drooling or panting or gasping for fictitious template hero peens in my life. While reading Justice Ascending, I close the book wondering when the party is going to happen. Because this isn’t book three in the Scorpius Syndrome series as much as it is an excuse to introduce more hot guys (somewhat interchangeable, but doesn’t matter – we are supposed to have the hots for them because they tick off every item on the template action hero trait list) amidst a throwaway plot. There is a romance here, but because I’ve already bought the book, the romance is basically, “You are the heroine. You are now having sex with the hero. Great, huh? Now clean up and buy the next book – thanks for your patronage!”
If you have read the previous books, you will recall that the world has been hit by the Scorpius bacterium, killing off millions and leaving alive only the action heroes, the random action heroines, and enough sassy government agent and pencil pusher women to love these action heroes. Those folks infected by the bacteria and live end up being stronger, faster, and even smarter – the men, mostly, because heaven forbid we have a romance hero in this genre that isn’t overpowered the max.
Our hero, Tace Justice, is one such guy. He was a Texas cowboy before he turns into Wolverine, and now, he really wants to do the donkey kong with our sassy, quippy, but not too strong as we don’t want to overshadow the men and spoil the penis worship hour heroine Sami Steel, but he argues that he is all dark, dangerous, and moody now, while Sami is too sweet and innocent and celibate (he checks 24/7 to make sure, and that’s sexy rather than creepy, naturally) so he can’t ever have sex with her. I don’t get it. But that doesn’t matter because by chapter three he’s telling Sami that he really wants to stick it to her everywhere. He’s hot, so that kind of talk is sexy, obviously.
This story sees those two going from one place to another, with Sami trying but failing to hide from him that she’s not what she claims to be. She has secrets and important information, but she can’t tell or else the author will have no book to turn in to her publisher. And the two talk. Lust. Gaze at their navels. A lot. For a story set in a dystopian world, this one is shockingly devoid of excitement or danger or anything that threatens to spoil the whole “The hero is hot and you want to have sex with him, badly, so let’s dwell on his perpetual hotness and horny horn nature for 200 pages!” sexy vibe of the story.
Along the way, the heroine’s loyalty is torn between the Hot Guys on the Good Side and the Hot Guys on the Other Side. Yes, the other side has some guys that are hot – the author describes their appearance right down to how those tight jeans wrap snugly around their crotches like tantalizing wrapped roast turkeys at the deli that every hot blooded romance reader will want to sink her teeth into ASAP. So there goes any pretense of suspense – the new characters introduced are Hot Guys with Hot Packages, so it’s not suspense as much as an advertisement for future books. I mean, with the author putting so much effort into describing the guys’ packages, who will even suspect for a second that those guys would be the bad guys? And when the story limps to a close, the actual bad guy runs away in an after-school cartoon way so that the phallus worship can continue for a few more books.
So, if you really need some materials to anchor your steamy fantasies around hot action heroes, and for some reason you have no access to all the free porn available online, then this book may serve a purpose. I’m not sure what else it is good for, though, since this one is barely a story and more of an advertisement and an excuse for the author to keep the series meandering a while longer.