4.5 Stars. If you haven’t read Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose series, you are missing out on one of the most unique voices writing Romance today as she really defies genre classification. That particular series is a historical/fantasy/steam punk/paranormal/ultra-sexy blend of pure awesome. Collision Course is a category/long-novella length Sci-Fi Romance which channels the best of TV Space Operas. If you are a fan of Firefly, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, and the Star Wars Franchise, but really wish there was more focus on the relationship and some very NC-17 love scenes, then you will absolutely ADORE this book and wish it was three times as long.
Mara Skiren is a space scavenger, eeking out a solitary living on her beloved RV sized ship and trying to stay out of the conflict between the 8th Wing resistance fighters and the PRAXIS quasi-governmental forces. Kell Frayne is one of those pesky 8th Wing pilots who want to disturb Mara’s quiet black market living by drafting her to retrieve an 8th Wing pilot and her plane from the Smoke Quadrant—the hub of the blackmarket smugglers.
Now, one of the reasons why I love to watch Sci-Fi but rarely read it is because of all the vocabulary and strange terms—-it often feels like one needs to pick up a second language just to enjoy a story. A lot of Sci-fi writers seem to delight in giving everything a techy name and in extolling the gadgets and inventions of their imaginations while the story languishes and suffers. Archer avoids this pitfall by keeping a lot of details familiar enough to avoid confusion, using similar sounding names, and keeping the techy speak to a minimum. She’s definitely of the Ron Moore (Battlestar creator) school of Sci-Fi writing and focuses on creating a compelling drama that transcends the Sci-Fi setting.
Archer excels at creating kick-butt heroines of the self-rescuing variety who are skilled at what they do and supremely confident in those skills. Mara knows that she’s an ace pilot, and more importantly, Kell knows it too. His trust in her unique skills, goes against his usual MO, but he trusts his instincts where Mara is concerned, and she doesn’t let him down. She rescues him just as many times as he rescues her. They each get a turn being the hero of this particular tale, which makes the action sequences that much more fun and unpredictable. The two are trapped together on her tiny ship, and Kell also trusts his instincts where his attraction to Mara is concerned. Much hotness ensues. Like the majority of Archer’s heroines, Mara is unabashedly sexual and very much an equal partner in that arena. Both Kell and Mara, however, are blindsided by the emotions that go beyond lust. These emotions also color the action scenes, which are very well done with cinematic overtones. The penultimate fight scene played out like the best action movie climaxes.
If you haven’t read Archer, this quick but meaty tale is a great introduction to her talents, and if you are an Archer fan wondering if you should follow her into this genre, the answer is a resounding YES. The amount of action (not *that* kind, although there is plenty of that too) makes her writing appeal to men and those who don’t read a lot of romance. (I recommended both this and the Blades of the Rose to my father with a mumbled warning about the heat level.) I’m not sure if Archer plans on returning to the 8th Wing amid her other series obligations, but I’d love to see a story for Lieutenant Jur (the kidnapped pilot) and other stories set in this universe. It seems a darn shame to only visit it once.