Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair

The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair
Bahia Vista homicide detective Theo Petrakos thought he’d seen it all. Then a mummified corpse and a room full of futuristic hardware sends Guardian Force commander Jorie Mikkalah into his life. Before the night’s through, he’s become her unofficial partner—and official prisoner—in a race to save the Earth. And that’s only the start of his troubles.

Jorie’s mission is to stop a deadly infestation of bio-mechanical organisms from using Earth as its breeding ground. If she succeeds, she could save a world and win a captaincy. But she’ll need Theo’s help, even if their unlikely partnership does threaten to set off an intergalactic incident.

Because if she fails, she’ll lose not just a planet and a promotion, but a man who’s become far more important than she cares to admit.

(Blurb from linneasinclair.com)
I've always enjoyed Linnea Sinclair's books, some more than others, but she's never failed for me. She didn't this time either. I was a bit nervous when I first leaned of the title as it seemed rather out there, but it fits the story well and in fact refers to a particular recurring motif in the novel.

This book is a departure from Sinclair's previous books, which all take place primarily in space and in a universe that may or may not feature Earth. The Down Home Zombie Blues, in contrast, is set on Earth in the here and now. It's a change that I know made some readers nervous, but the setting worked beautifully for me. Sinclair switches POV between her main characters and whenever we find ourselves in Jorie's head we see Earth (and all it's attendant weirdness) only through her eyes and vocabulary. It's a perfect contrast to Theo's more laid-back and, of course, familiar style and helps to show the differences between the protagonists. As they each get to know the situation and the other better, their styles begin to merge a little - never the same but sharing more of the same vocabularly and viewpoint. It's a very neat and well done way to show both character and relationship development and Sinclair does it well.

I enjoyed the characters, both Jorie and Theo and the minor players, all of which felt like real and solid people to me. My favourite secondary characters were Theo's partner Zeke and his wife Suzanne. I did find the Earth-based characters easier to relate to than the Guardians, and I'm chosing to consider this intentional of Sinclair's part as I've never felt that kind of dichotomy before in her books.

I had the same reaction to Jorie and Theo, relating to Theo much more easily. Don't get me wrong - I liked Jorie who was a well-written and strong women, both being things I like in a book. I just liked Theo more. I felt he responded to everything that happened to him in a reasonable manner, especially when he found himself trapped on an alien spaceship orbiting the Earth and being told he could never go home again.

I did find the frequent Star Trek references a little frustrating, but a throwaway line later in the book suggested it was intentional. If a check was done into the background of some of the show's writers and/or plotters it seems we might discover an extraterrestial or two, at least in Sinclair's version of the universe.

I would also have liked to understand the villains a bit more - they had been at war with Jorie's people, they were perfect to look at and they're evil seemed to be the sum total of what we learned. That wasn't quite enough for me. I don't need great sections of text inside their heads or anything, but I felt there wasn't quite enough there to make them real to me. The zombies - which were great - were more real than the Tresh.

This was a very slow read for me. It took me eight days to read a book that I would usually except to take about four at the most. I don't know if that was me or the book - everything I've tried to read lately has been slow going - but a friend who also read it agreed with me.

All the same, I liked this book. I liked the characters and the setting and enjoyed reading it. If you like, or would like to try, romantic science fiction, give The Down Home Zombie Blues a read.

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