The Down Home Zombie Blues, by Linnea Sinclair

>> Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TITLE: The Down Home Zombie Blues
AUTHOR: Linnea Sinclair

PAGES: 517

SETTING: Contemporary US and a spaceship!
TYPE: Sci-fi romance
SERIES: Not sure, there might be sequels coming

REASON FOR READING: Love this author.

Bahia Vista homicide detective Theo Petrakos thought he’d seen it all. Then a mummified corpse and a room full of futuristic hardware sends Guardian Force commander Jorie Mikkalah into his life. Before the night’s through, he’s become her unofficial partner—and official prisoner—in a race to save the earth. And that’s only the start of his troubles.

Jorie’s mission is to stop a deadly infestation of biomechanical organisms from using Earth as its breeding ground. If she succeeds, she could save a world and win a captaincy. But she’ll need Theo’s help, even if their unlikely partnership does threaten to set off an intergalactic incident.

Because if she fails, she’ll lose not just a planet and a promotion, but a man who’s become far more important to her than she cares to admit.
Christmas is fast approaching when Detective Theo Petrakos' life goes weird. First, his team gets called in to investigate a very strange corpse, one that looks all dried up and mummified, but with strangely moist eyeballs (and that was a very effective image... euww!). Finding some very mysterious tech equipment in the corpse's house, Theo takes it in as evidence. But on the way to the police station he does a quick stopover at his house, and that's when all hell breaks loose.

First, a strange but beautiful woman shows up and tries to take the evidence from him, just to be interrupted by a very, very strange, murderous creature which just materialises in his back yard. A pitched battle ensues, and when he and the strange woman kill the creature and Theo thinks all is safe, then the weirdness just increases. Suddenly, Theo finds himself in a spaceship, to which he's clearly been beamed up.

The woman in his backyard is Commander Jorie Mikkalah, from the Guardian Force. Jorie's team's role is to protect the universe from infestations of "zombies" (what they call creatures such as the one in Theo's back yard). These zombies are not undead people... to cut the story short, they were engineered by Jorie's people centuries earlier to patrol trade routes, but something went wrong with them and they started operating independently. Unfortunately, operating independently means that they slaughter masses of the inhabitants of the worlds they occupy, so Jorie's team tries to go in as soon as possible to prevent it from happening.

When the target is a world already in the loop about what's really going on in the universe, things are straightforward enough. The Guardian Force will just work with the locals to get rid of the zombies. However, when the target is a nil-tech world, like Earth, stealth is needed, because the Guardians have learnt through experience that nils are very suspicious of aliens, and that they tend to get very aggressive very fast.

The standard way of dealing with particular nils who find out about the existence of the Guardians is to relocate them to the lovely world of Paroo (a sort of Hawaii on steroids), and that's what's supposed to happen to Theo now. But Theo is determined not to be sent away from his beloved world and his community, not to mention his family and friends, and he manages to negotiate a bit of a stay-of-execution. The Guardian Force's man (alien?) on Earth has become a victim of the zombies, and so they'd be operating blind. Theo is perfectly placed to help them out with his local knowledge, and help them save the planet.

But plans go wrong soon after they go back and Jorie finds herself stranded on Earth, cut off from the support of her mothership and her systems. If she wants to keep the zombies from taking over the Earth (and possibly later the whole universe as well, because it soon becomes clear that this is not a run-of-the-mill zombie infestation), she's going to need to trust Theo and his nil comrades and work with them.

Oof, that was a long summary, but necessary to explain the setup (it doesn't feel complicated in the book, I have to say). I really like Sinclair's mix of sci-fi, adventure and romance, and while this one doesn't reach the amazing wonderfulness of the last I read by her, Games of Command, it was pretty damn good.

The plot is interesting, with plenty of twists and turns (and I loved the teamwork that develops), and the world-building is well-done, but what I liked best was the romance. Both Jorie and Theo are a bit older than your usual romance character, and indeed, they feel more mature. They're both very invested and competent in their chosen fields, and this is very important to both. There's a lot separating them, obviously, what with Jorie being from another planet and speaking a language which while similar to English, is not quite the same (some pretty nice comic relief from that). But even with all that, they click. There's more than enough closeness in the persons they are deep inside that it compensates for all the outward differences. I also liked that though both are coming out of really bad relationships, this affects them in realistic ways. No "all men/women are evil just because I knew one who was" from Theo or Jorie!

For all the action, there was a lot of character and romance development. However, for all the action, there were also times when the book dragged a little bit. It's a long book, and it felt like it could use some tightening. Not an awful lot, though, and I enjoyed it.

MY GRADE: A very solid B.


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