Tuesday, December 2, 2008

“Driven” to Drink: Books and Booze at The End of the Universe

In a galaxy far, far away, in a space-trash bar at the other end of the universe, two stunningly gorgeous women laser-blast a couple of hideous tentacled things—and sit down in the now vacant barstools.

“Barkeep! Two double Pan Galactic Gargleblasters on the rocks. With salt! Oh, and don’t forget to add those cute little umbrella thingies. And make it quick!”

The sultry, steel-eyed brunette turns to her scar-faced, blonde companion.


“Thanks for meeting me for a drink, Heather. And at such short notice, too. But it was urgent. We have important things we need to discuss. Things of the utmost importance to the universe. You know—books! I've just read Eve Kenin's DRIVEN and I just had to talk to you about it. Didn’t you just love it?”

“Z! Mein Gott!”

Heather reaches out to caress the intrepid spy’s choker, a divine pattern of dusty blue jade beads and silver threads.

“Beautiful piece! You simply must tell me where you bought that.”

Heather pauses to take a drink.

“Anyway, back to DRIVEN. As you know, Z, DRIVEN is a futuristic romance about Raina Bowen, who ‘...knows she can handle herself just fine against anything the harsh Northern Waste throws at her. Until it throws her an enigmatic stranger called Wizard. First, she has to haul him out of a brawl he can't hope to win. And next, her libido is shooting into overdrive at the feel of his hard body pressed against hers on the back of her snow scooter. But there’s something not quite right about this guy. Before she can strip bare Wizard’s secrets, they’re lured into a race for their lives, battling rival truckers, ice pirates...and a merciless maniac with a very personal vendetta.’”

Heather pauses for another sip to soothe her overworked throat and then continues.

“I thought Kenin packed a lot of story into DRIVEN. It had a fair amount of suspense, mystery, tons of action, and of course, a romance. I finished it with a clear sense of closure because every plot thread was tied up.

“The pacing was excellent in that nothing felt too rushed or too slow. The plot felt fresh to me, and I also enjoyed the story because it was very visual. It felt as though I was reading a book and watching a movie at the same time.”

Heather crosses her legs and then settles back into her chair. “Tell me your thoughts about the plot, and then I just have to know your opinion of Raina.”

“I read this book in one sitting. The plot just carried me along and I was almost surprised when it ended—I hadn’t realized how involved I was. I agree with your comment on the pacing. There never came a part that I felt was slow enough that I could put the book down and go and do something else instead.”

Z. stops talking and knocks back a Gargleblaster before continuing.

“Raina. I liked her a lot, from the first moment I met her sitting in a sleazy bar remarkably similar to this one. She’s as tough as nails, with an untapped center that is pure compassion. She had a horribly traumatic childhood, but she’s a survivor. Yeah…I liked her a lot. I liked Wizard, too. I didn’t quite get the cold-eyed killer vibe that Raina got from him. I mean, the writer kept telling us that he was a stone cold mutha, but I thought he was sweet. Even in the beginning. But then, I'm a sucker for emotionally detached geeks that make their living killing people.”

Z. notices her empty glass.

“Barkeep! Two more Gargleblasters, if you please!”

She pauses to glare at the tentacled thing that is making multiple eyes at Heather.

“I thought Kenin did a great job with the action scenes. I’m afraid that I’m terribly picky about action scenes. I’ve been know to skip them if they don’t meet with my approval. But I liked Kenin’s a lot. Maybe it was because of that very visual feel that you already mentioned. I, too, could see those massive big rigs dueling their way through the frozen wastelands. I could see the run-down dumps and dives and the orphaned children and the glaring whiteness. I could definitely see this story on the big screen. And if it were me writing the screenplay, I think I’d be making some changes to the villain. I found Duncan Bane a little over done. He didn’t exactly roar that he would rule the world, then cackle evilly, but I kept expecting him to. What did you think of the bad guys, Heather? Did they scare you?”

With a snap of a wrist, Heather spreads her silk cherry blossom fan. She rapidly cools her blushing face, and not because of tentacled thing. “I must admit, I thought Duncan Bane was hella sexy. His name is great—almost too good for a villain! He had me at that eye-patch and scar of his. Also, the concept of him as a corporate overlord intent on ruling the Northern Waste was intriguing, even though the concept itself wasn’t new.

“That said, I agree that he had a two dimensional flavor. Makes me wonder if a layer of sympathetic traits or qualities might have lent him more complexity. The Janson boys played the role of typical muscle men, but their introduction held a certain level of suspense for me. Ultimately, they and Duncan Bane did the job required for the story in a cohesive way. Was I scared? No. But I enjoyed the ride." (Get it? "Driven...?" “Ride?!” Ahehehe...oh, never mind.)

“I think Raina’s energy definitely drove the story, but I liked Wizard as a hero. I appreciated that he didn’t speak much dialogue. There was a constant aura of mystery surrounding him. Nice bit of restraint on Eve Kenin’s part. Hot sex scenes between them? Check!”

Heather imbibes the rest of her drink and signals the barkeep for another round. Then she leans toward Agent Z with a conspiratorial hunch of her shoulders. “I'm going to let you in on a secret. The resolution at the end, you know, with Raina’s [censored], brought tears to my eyes.” Heather reaches into her black leather satchel for a lacy pink hanky and daintily wipes the corners of both eyes. “I thought it was very touching. Can you blame me?”

Z. swipes Heather’s lace hanky and dabs at her own eyes.

“Yes, it really was a beautifully touching ending. I expelled a huge sigh of satisfaction at the end. And I really appreciated that Kenin spent the time to give the reader that satisfaction, instead of setting us up for the sequel—another pet peeve of mine. And I’m really looking forward to reading Eve Kenin’s HIDDEN. Though, Heather, I must say—you ARE naughty, preferring the villain to the hero.”

Z. downs her final drink and, just for fun, shoots another tentacled thing.
“Well, I must be going, Heather. I have the universe to save (again!) and more books to read. Be seeing you soon!”

As Heather grabs the bill and turns to pay it, Z. unhooks the choker from around her neck and slips it into Heather’s purse. After all, Heather totally deserves a perfect piece of rare jewelry!

Heather addresses the passengers of The Galaxy Express. “I’d like to share the love! One lucky passenger will win a copy of Eve Kenin’s DRIVEN just by leaving a comment for this post!

“The contest is limited to U.S. residents, and the deadline for the drawing is 9 p.m. on Thursday, December 4, 2008.”

Heather leans against the bar as yet another tentacled thing approaches. It slips a few slimy appendages around her waist.

Heather grins, shrugs. “Well, nobody’s perfect!