Collision Course is my new favorite one-night stand of romance novels, and it was just the thing to see my through a very stressful week which culminated in Dear Daughter catching the flu. This is not a book that is likely to inspire anyone with deep thoughts about life, but for pure escapism you just can’t do better than this. Many thanks to Zoë Archer for transporting me to the outer regions of space in between earthly crisis!
I was so excited to read Collision Course that I lost my eBook virginity to it (it’s only available digitally), and although reading a book on my laptop is not my favorite way to read, it was still loads of fun. What really impressed me is that even though the novel is basically a collection of tropes, Archer is able to render them so vividly and playfully, and take just enough liberties with them, that the book feels reasonably fresh. We have the hot smuggler chick, the alpha military guy, spaceships, badass smuggler bars, intrigue, and tons of hot sex. All that’s missing is a chatty robot. Archer packs a surprising amount of detailed world-building and nuanced character development into a scant 137 pages, and when characters aren’t making out, they are flying through space storms, so there’s always a ton of exciting stuff going on.
The plot is that trusty standby – individual on the shady side of the law has to help a squeaky clean cop with a rescue mission. In this case, the shady lady is Mara, a hotshot smuggler pilot. Mara is inveigled into helping Kell, a hotshot 8th Wing pilot, rescue Lieutenant Jur from the clutches of PRAXIS. We can tell PRAXIS is an evil organization, because its name consists of all capital letters. Lt. Jur is being held somewhere within the Smoke Quadrant, an area of space that Mara is familiar with while 8th Wing is not – hence the need for her to launch a rescue. Lt. Jur was flying a super nifty spaceship that will also need to be returned to 8th Wing, and which only Kell can pilot (if Jur is dead or otherwise incapacitated), hence the need for Mara to accept the presence of a partner despite her habit of only flying (and living) alone. Much delightful mayhem ensues as our intrepid pair travels together in a spaceship built for one, engages in great feats of piloting, gets all dressed up (and down) for a tour through Smugglerville (that’s not what it’s called, but it ought to be), and battles against all odds to rescue Jur. Also, they make out a lot.
I was really impressed with how much depth Archer was able to stuff into this novel). Both main characters are given enough back-story that their behavior makes sense and they seem like actual people, albeit highly exotic and unusual people. Even though the story consists of one trope after another, a lot of those tropes are tweaked. Yes, Kell is all alpha and growly (literally – he growls). He wants to protect Mara, who is amazed and touched by his protectiveness. But, Mara wants to protect him too, and Kell is equally touched. I thought Mara got a bit girly, and it bugged me that Kell kept giving her driving advice. But, I liked the fact that Mara is quite comfy with her sexuality and has had great sex before. It’s always nice to encounter a non-virgin heroine, although that’s slightly subverted by the fact that her past sex life has consisted of casual encounters and not long term love affairs, whereas Kell has had at least one prior meaningful relationship (or so the reader may infer). The dialogue was great – Kell and Mara have a very natural awkwardness early on, along with funny repartee and a refreshing ability to actually communicate. And then we have this, just before our dashing duo finally gets it on:
““All 8th Wing get the Xalina vaccine”
Which meant that he couldn’t carry or transmit any of the social diseases that once plagued soldiers.
“And I have the Tarawet chip implant”. No children for her, thank you very much.”
OK. First of all, thank you, Zoë, for having a couple frankly discuss birth control and disease prevention. Second of all, I totally snorted tea out of my nose. I don’t think that conversation was supposed to be funny, but I laughed in the deranged way that only the sleep-deprived mother of a child with the flu can. Was that totally awkward writing, or have I just turned into a thirteen-year-old boy? Also, why doesn’t Mara care about preventing diseases? Even if it’s only available to the military, you’d think she’d try to get it somehow. If I happened to be a sexually active smuggler, and I knew the military had such a vaccine, it’s the very first thing I would smuggle.
In conclusion, if you are new to romance, or if you are new to science fiction, this probably won’t be the book to win you over to either genre. But, if you want to have a great time with some familiar tropes that are vividly and freshly drawn, then you will have a wonderful time reading Collision Course even though you might not remember it in the morning. I can’t say that this book stuck in my head in a life-changing kind of way, but I had fun, I cared about the characters, and I felt like I could inhabit their richly portrayed world. I wanted the book to be longer and more (pardon me) fleshed out, and I want Jur to have a sequel. Go, Lt. Jur!