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March 2003
2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Contact by Susan Grant
Paperback: ISBN
0505524996 PubDate Oct 02
Review by Victoria McManus
pages List price $5.99  
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*Please note there are some spoilers in this review.*

Contact is an engaging starting place for readers curious about science fiction romance. Author Susan Grant has written several novels already in this burgeoning new genre: Once A Pirate utilizes time travel, while The Star King and its sequel The Star Prince both involve the alien Vash civilization. Her newest book, Contact, has been awarded "Desert Isle Keeper" status by the respected "All About Romance" website, amid some controversy  with Anderson Merchandising over stocking the book because of its hijacking plot (you can find more here

Contact begins when a 747 is caught in an inexplicable storm. Heroine Jordan Cady, the co-pilot, is left in charge of crew and passengers when the pilot succumbs to a fatal heart attack. Believing that they have been hijacked, the crew and passengers successfully band together to fight off invaders, only to find that their efforts are, ultimately, fruitless. They have not been hijacked but taken aboard an immense alien craft located beyond our solar system. The humanoid aliens have, they say, rescued the humans on the plane from Earth's total destruction by a comet shower, which has already taken place. Faced with a recording of the destruction, the humans can do nothing but believe they are now orphaned, and dependent upon the aliens' kindness to resettle on another planet.

This scenario is not unusual to a regular reader of science fiction or viewer of science fiction movies, but Grant enlivens the rather standard setup with realistic details. Like the heroine of Contact, Grant formerly was a 747 pilot for United Airlines; her inside knowledge enhances the heroine's depth and believability, and upon the heroine rests the story.

Like all good romance writers, Grant uses characters' emotions to develop the plot, but in this case the emotions arise believably from the terrible situation in which they find themselves. She shows ordinary people coping, or having difficulty coping--in an extraordinary situation.

Romance is integral to the plot, which is hardly a surprise in this genre.

The heroine Jordan, while mourning for the daughter she has been told is dead, must care for and lead what she thinks are the last humans to exist, while at the same time dealing with a mysterious and attractive alien liaison, Kao Vantaar-Moray.

Kao is the adopted son of the alien ship's captain, on restricted duties while he recovers from serious injury. At the same time, he is doubting his position in their military due to secrets he may have revealed under enemy torture, and re-evaluating his relationship with his foster parent. His relationship with Jordan becomes key to their together unraveling alien political plots and ensuring the humans' survival. Aside from the whole question of falling in love with an alien, their interactions are complicated by their private griefs and the fact that Kao is younger than Jordan, something which distresses but ultimately does not dissuade her.

Their feelings deepen quickly amid intense stress and it was this more than anything else which I felt made the novel work.

The science fiction in the book is believable to a degree that allowed me to suspend my disbelief, just like any good space opera. I was most impressed by the diverse alien society she implied through the words and actions of only a few characters. No unified 'Star Trek' planets here. Grant took advantage of the alien's superior technology to provide the characters with a form of universal translator, but carefully showed some of its drawbacks as well; the device is shown to take time to develop, and at the same time the humans are struggling to learn the aliens' lingua franca. Important  elements of the plot hinge on human and alien computers; this is a little less believable, but not outside the realm of possibility.

Grant's aliens were humanoid and enough like humans emotionally that the story of Jordan and Kao could proceed; I don't consider this a flaw because the novel is not really about first contact, it is about two people and their relationship. And as a relationship story, Contact is splendid.

sfr3d.gif (19860 bytes) 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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