Tainted Trail, by Wen Spencer (Ukiah Oregon # 2)

>> Monday, January 24, 2005

Right after finishing my reread of Wen Spencer's Alien Taste, book # 1 of the Ukiah Oregon series, I started on # 2, Tainted Trail.

The sequel to Alien Taste (2001) sends Ukiah Oregon off on the trail of Alicia Kraynak, the niece of his partner Max's best friend. What appears to be an ordinary disappearance quickly turns out to involve alien invaders, the Ontongard (somewhat like the Borg of Star Trek: The Next Generation), and one of Ukiah's earlier selves, the feral Wild Boy of the Oregon wilderness.
While during the first half of the book it looked as if this one was going to be an even better book than Alien Taste (no small feat, that!), some problems with the middle section lowered my grade to a very respectable B+.

I admit, I had my doubts when I finished Alien Taste as to how the hell Spencer was going to continue Ukiah's story when it felt like things with the Ontongard were pretty much settled already. Or was the story going to go in a completely different direction and become about Ukiah solving purely human mysteries? Well, it certainly shows that I haven't been reading this genre for a while, because if I had, I might have noticed the many, many spaces that were left in which whole stories could be comfortably fitted.

Much of Tainted Trail is about identity, what makes us who we are and the fear of losing this and the power of memories. I found the way Spencer explored this theme enlightening and especially creative.

The whole first half, which comprised the intial tracking of Alicia and Ukiah's approach of his possible family, the Kicking Deers and his research on what might have happened to the 1933 Wolf Boy, was just excellent. As I said, even better than Alien Taste. However, after the fifth time Ukiah got killed by the bad guys (in increasingly creative ways), I realized the book had got into a bit of a rut that way. It recovered from it, though, and the ending was quite satisfying.

I'm not sure of where Spencer is going to take the series now, but this time, I do see certain possibilities, and they're all pretty intriguing. I'm definitely picking up the next two titles in the series as soon as I can.


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