Amazon Digital Services, 2018
Audra has known some tough times, growing up in foster homes and dealing with the insecurity of never having a real family. Now she’s facing the biggest challenge of her life, trying save herself and her infant daughter Roxie from Roxie’s controlling and psychologically abusive father, Tom Verhailey. But where can she go to escape the long reach of her wealthy, well-connected lawyer boyfriend? With the assistance of her adoptive mom, Audra flees to Kwadra, the alien island that had appeared off the west coast of the US a few years previously. According to rumor, the island is riddled with tunnels and underground cities the Kwadrans built to protect themselves from the devastated environment on their alternative Earth. It seems the perfect place to hide.
A rough-looking, taciturn Kwadran man, Talopas Pelletier, finds Audra puzzling over her map and offers to lead her to a ventilation shaft she can use to enter. She is understandably suspicious of Tal’s intentions, but he proves to be a trustworthy, resourceful ally in her escape efforts. He also suffers from his own sorrows. As she and the alien get to know one another, her gratitude transforms itself to attraction and love.
Meanwhile, Matt Verhailey, Tom’s father and Audra’s adoptive uncle, sets out on a quest to find his missing niece. Out of necessity, he enlists the assistance of the formidable Duchess Opsie Beaverclaw, former chief of the Kwadran gendarmerie. Opsie agrees to help Matt at least partially because she likes his looks. It’s been a while since she’s had a lover. Her power, her bossiness and her horribly scarred face combine to ensure that not many men, human or Kwadran, would consider bedding her.
Accompanied by several Kwadran youths whom Opsie is considering for promotion, they enter the buried city of Nuxalt to search for Audra. The runaway mom isn’t the only one hiding out underground, though. Kwadran rebels haunt the meltrock passages and dwellings, desperate men who hate Opsie and her clan and will do anything to destroy them.
Alien Contact for Runaway Moms is the third book I’ve read in Ed Hoornaert’s series; I thought it was the best so far. Although Audra’s and Tal’s developing relationship is enjoyable to watch, I personally fell in love with Opsie. She’s a brilliant character, snarky and smart on the surface, but deeply wounded underneath. Mr. Hoornaert does an excellent job balancing the two subplots and couples, bringing them together in a rousing climax. I don’t want to reveal too many details, but the final battle between the good guys and the bad is both heart-stopping and hilarious.
Alien Contact for Runaway Moms includes a lot more fun Kwadran technology than the previous books. Tiny drones with holographic lenses, food synthesizing cafeterias, robots large and small, exotic weapons—this book will delight lovers of classic science fiction. What I liked most, though, were the insights into Kwadran culture and language. Tal and Audra have very different assumptions and expectations—not all that surprising considering they come from two different universes.
I have only two minor criticisms of the book. First, it seemed that baby Roxie grew up incredibly quickly. The book is a bit vague about how long Audra was supposed to have been in Kwadra, but it couldn’t have been more than a few weeks at most. During that time Roxie progressed from rolling over, to crawling, to saying her first words. Quite a prodigy! (Or perhaps this was due to alien influences?)
Second, Audra’s boyfriend Tom was simply too icky to be believable. I couldn’t imagine how Audra had ended up with such a wimpy bozo in the first place. I would have expected Tom to be less comical and pathetic and more threatening.
Fortunately, he makes only a brief appearance in the tale.
Mr. Hoornaert has a lively, free-flowing style that carries the reader along. I breezed through the novel in a few hours, enjoying every minute. Alien Contact for Runaway Moms offers action, pathos, romance, sex (though not explicitly described) and quite a bit of humor. In short, I loved it.
[I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the author.]