June 25, 2002
Book Review -- Alien Taste

I happened to meet Wen Spencer at the Other Meeting on Sunday. Wen, for those who don't know, is a Campbell Award Nominee -- an award which will be given at the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose this August.

The Other Meeting is a NESFA function, held in a casual environment so everyone can get club business done and get some serious socializing done. Other topics of conversation for the day included my children (of course!), gardening, and Pittsburgh. The latter would be one of the things Wen and I talked about -- as we realized we knew people in common.

So we talked for a while. I hadn't realized she was a Campbell nominee at first, although I knew she was an author. Then I found out her books were part of the Roc line. To which I immediately responded, "I don't have to worry -- I'll like your writing. I like Laura Anne's taste." Which has been SO true. If Laura Anne recommends something, I love it. If Jenn recommends something, I love it. If they BOTH recommend something, I *totally* love it.

Sometime in the conversation about conventions and all I found out that Wen was a nominee. Which means I just have to read the books as soon as I can, since voting is due by July 31st!

This morning, in the few minutes before I had to leave for work, I gulped down the last few pages of Alien Taste, Wen's first novel. And oh, I loved it. I was frustrated that I couldn't start the second book (Tainted Trail) until tonight!

Wen's not writing a trilogy. She's writing a series of books -- a detective series with an sf/fantasy twist. The main character is Ukiah Oregon, a private investigator who was found living in the wild with wolves and was taken in by his two new moms.

Ukiah is the biggest draw in the series to me. He is likeable, confused, off-kilter, intense, curious, honorable, and altogether *interesting* to read about. As the book went on and he learned more about his own truths -- pieces of his past long lost to him -- I came to want to *know* more and to want to see him gain his understanding of what was going on around him. I came to respect him for his morals, and to be entertained by what seemed to be a very direct naivete.

And in the end, the best recommendation is, I wanted more.

If I had to make a complaint, it would be that at times I wanted more while it was happening. What was there was wonderfully drawn, and very vivid imagery. But there were pieces I would have liked to see more of. A bit more time around Ukiah and his developing relationship. I'd definitely like to see more of his mothers (Mom Jo and Mom Lara). I got somewhat of a feel for them through Ukiah's eyes, but I'd love to get the chance to see them more for myself.

But that's being selfish. The book isn't short, by any means, and to have fleshed out anything more would have both interrupted the story and made it just too long. As it was, it was the perfect length for a rolicking quick read that was thoroughly enjoyable.

There are some authors I love but read slowly. And while I always enjoy their writing, I leave it sitting on my "to-read" shelf and wait and wait for the right moment to pick it up, simply because I know its going to take some mental work on my part to get through it. I'll love it, but its not going to be easy.

Wen, however, is one of that class of authors that I enjoy reading, and am likely to grab when I want something I can just sink into, enjoy the life vicariously for a while, and then drop out of with a wistful sigh of when will there be more? Its a good class to be a part of!

I'm starting Tainted Trail tonight, and am very much looking forward to the third book!

And for those who get the chance to meet Wen, take it. She was fun to talk to, and I enjoyed our conversation. She's a down to earth person. Yes, authors are people too. *smile*

Posted by Deb Atwood at June 25, 2002 11:39 PM
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