Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Parallel Attraction by Michelle Houston

TITLE: Parallel Attraction
AUTHOR: Michelle Houston
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 12k)
GENRE: Paranormal erotic romance
COST: $3.00

Hostage Anna-Marie Dallas is about to die. The gunmen holding her and a whole host of others have guns and other weapons, and when the police storm them, they don’t hesitate to detonate the bomb they have waiting. Except Anna-Marie doesn’t die. When she wakes up, she discovers she’s been taken from her world and brought into an alternate reality, one where the world’s population has been decimated by a devastating third world war. These people have expanded mental capabilities, and she will be facing the growth of her own psychic powers, as well as struggling with the man whose face she woke up seeing – Dr. Alex Brent…

The premise on this sounded fascinating. I love alternate reality stories, though I most often read them as sci-fi rather than romance. The idea that she’d been thrown into one by the detonation of a bomb was interesting enough for me to dismiss the slightly clunky excerpt I read. The writing in it wasn’t awful; in fact, there were glimmers that it could be evocative. I didn’t even get that annoyed when I hit the first chapter (the excerpt and bomb scene is the prologue) and realized it had been a deliberate action instead of accidental, that the occupants of the alternate reality had specifically pulled her into their world instead of her accidentally tumbling into it.

But it went downhill from there.

The world the author has created is a complex one. Alternate realities usually are, which is part of the fascination. But rather than let the reader and Anna-Marie explore it and learn it on her own, we are subjected to paragraph after paragraph of history lessons, explanations, and string theory. In a story that’s only 12k long, it bogs it down unnecessarily. Nothing remotely active occurs until halfway through the story, by which point, I’ve lost most of my interest.

The characters suffer from this information overload. Alex is relegated to storyteller, and Anna-Marie just kind of takes it. There’s no opportunity to see any real personality until near the end of the story, and again, it’s too little too late. The most attention they get outside of the information dumps is their one sex scene, which happens near the end of the story. The same glimmers of an interesting voice poke through in this particular scene, but then it’s over, and I’m left with the feeling of Is that it?

Apparently, it was.


5/10 – Clunky information dumps and stilted dialogue make me want to skim.


3/10 – Pretty personality-less, mostly because of the aforementioned issues


4/10 – She suffers from a lot of the same issues, and I never get a feel that she’s actually having a rebirth of sorts

Entertainment value

4/10 – Bored mostly, which is a shame because there’s some fascinating ideas buried within the prose

World building

6/10 – Points for having thought through this world extremely well, though points taken away at how clumsily they’re given



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