LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52542-9
Sci-fi Romance, 2004
Susan Grant’s The Legend of Banzai Maguire that kicks off her brainchild series 2176 is an ambitious futuristic romance with world-building that is rarely found in a straightforward futuristic romance. And being Susan Grant, her heroines are tough and proactive characters that can kick any weepy, psychic virgin healers back to whichever planet these nitwits crawl from. Therefore, I feel like a complete schmuck to say that I find this book an interesting read, but also rather an average read nonetheless.
It’s 2006. Bree “Banzai” Maguire is on a routine fly-over mission over North Korea (she’s with the USAF) when her plane as well as her friend Cam’s are shot down by a revolutionist trying to stir up trouble between North Korea and the United States. The revolutionist, who’s also a bad of a mad scientist, puts Bree and Cam in suspended animation, but bombs start falling soon and next thing Bree knows, she is rescued and it’s now 2176. Thankfully, being in suspended animation means that she’s still luscious and hot for an ancient old hag, as fans of science-fiction can testify.
This story deals with Bree trying to equilibrate herself to a world that has changed. Among other things, some really amazing and persistent fellow manage to unite China and Japan as well as Taiwan and the two Koreas to form the Asian Kingdom that isolate itself from the rest of the world. Even more interesting, they all speak a form of English now called the Hans. I’d like to see how that fellow manages to persuade the zealous nationalists of each country to adopt English as a lingua franca. Anyway, I also don’t know whether to laugh or cry when the author has Pakistan and India obliterating each other out of existence and that the Middle East is now part of America in a new union of states called the United Colonies of Earth. Oh, and Canada is still Canada, with plagues and all thrown in. I find the whole vision of the future quite amusing in a morbid way. I think I really like this future vision of Earth, heh.
An UCE SEAL fellow Ty Armstrong is the person who discovers Bree, but he is captured by the Emperor Prince of the Asian Kingdoms, Kyber, and Bree awakens to find herself enjoying Kyber’s hospitality. Kyber seems like a nice guy, but Bree will soon be dragged into potential revolution brewing in Shangri-La that may pit her against Kyber. Likewise, she’s attracted to Ty but he may also drag her into the political intrigues brewing in the UCE, especially when Bree learns of Ty’s background. Oh, and Cam’s missing and Bree is determined to find her. Bree wakes up into the new world and learns that she’ll have very little time to recuperate, thanks to these inconsiderate people, that poor thing.
My biggest problem in this book is the pacing. Most of this story has Bree absorbing information from the people around her, and while I find the world-building interesting, the pace really drags and what momentum the author has going when Bree awakes in 2176 dies a quick death thanks to constant expositions. It’s probably not necessary for the author to lay out the entire scenario in this futuristic world, I think, because it is probably better for Bree to go out there and discover how much the world has changed instead of just sitting back for so long and absorbing information from other people. The pacing improves tremendously in the late third of the story, but by then it’s like a party that starts too late and ends too soon.
Because the pace is slow, it is up to the characters to be interesting enough to carry the story. Unfortunately, Ty is never well-developed. He remains some guy who harbors a rather unhealthy obsession with Bree and makes it his life’s mission to find her. When he has found her, his fanboy obsession quickly switches into high gear – he will make love to her and show her how much he loves her. I bet he has a shrine to Bree in his bedroom. I think Ms Grant is trying to do that Captain Nemo thing with Kyber – that is, she wants to make Kyber a simultaneously enigmatic and charming person who may or may not be a bad guy – but Kyber is too much like the Emperor of Siam to Bree’s Anna.
Bree, on the hand, is a nice heroine who’s strong, determined, and capable. But the author decides to give Bree some psychological baggage that she doesn’t develop well enough. As a result, Bree’s baggage feels gratuitous, like some half-hearted apology in case Bree comes off as too “tough”. But Bree is tough and capable, so that’s good.
Ms Grant’s action scenes feel vaguely off somehow. The author’s tendency to have her characters pause in the midst of an suspenseful action scene to indulge in some flashbacks or introspections kills the urgency of that scene. Bree’s confronting the North Korean enemy plane at the start of the story is a good example of a potentially exciting scene that is marred by a flashback that slows the rate of this reader’s heartbeat and hence kills the mood.
I really want to enjoy The Legend of Banzai Maguire. It’s very different from the usual futuristics out there. Bree is arguably the focus of the story and she is more than capable of that role. The problem is, I merely like this book. The world building is well-done. While I find that the story’s notion of patriotism and freedom a little too black and white, almost military-like, for me, Bree and Ty are in the military and hence their way of seeing things feel very credible. But the book never succeeds in moving past simmer point for me. I can’t help feeling that a boost in pacing and a reduction in expositions would have done wonders for this book.