Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bound to Fall by Ann Somerville

TITLE: Bound to Fall
AUTHOR: Ann Somerville
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 55k)
GENRE: Gay sci-fi
COST: $3.99

In this third book of the Encounters series, Suaj and Rael find themselves thrust back into the limelight when another ship arrives from Rael’s home planet in search of good relations with Quarn…and more interacting with the Angels. That requires Dinun’s intervention, but after being recently diagnosed with an incurable disease and still angry about the first attack on the Angels, he’s not inclined to help. The possibility of a cure as well as natural curiosity eventually convince everyone to cooperate, but nothing is ever simple when it comes to Tuzax…

It’s always interesting to follow romantic characters after they’ve reached their HEA. In this third installment to the Encounters series, both couples from the first two books come back and finally get a real chance to interact. Dinun and Moon are still together, though Dinun’s recent diagnosis threatens their future, while Rael and Suaj are still going strong. The circumstances that bring them together is the arrival of another ship from Tuzax, one that claims peace but also ignorance of much of what happened with the first ship. Rael and Suaj are seduced by the opportunity to learn more, in addition to Rael’s desire to see his home planet again and assure his parents he is not dead. Moon’s curiosity about what Tuzax is like, as well as the cure they say they can give the man he loves, are enough to get him to agree to this trip. The entire set-up is fascinating and easily accessible, sucking me in to follow greedily along.

Part of this immersion is due to the greater ease I connected to all four of the characters. Where previous books distanced me emotionally from the principles, in this story, I empathized tremendously with all four, especially Suaj and Dinun. Dinun’s difficulties are heart-breaking and real, while Suaj offers emotional complexities I didn’t feel when first introduced to him in the second book. It’s a vast improvement over the previous novels, which I find ironic considering this is the one of the three I wouldn’t necessarily label a romance. Regardless of that, though, there isn’t a principle in this that isn’t emotionally available. Dinun’s angst, Moon’s dedication, Rael’s guilt, Suaj’s conflict…all are palpable and permeate every page of the book.

All of this is held together by the question of why Tuzax came back to Quarn in the first place. Everybody is suspicious right from the start, but not one of the landing party reveals any hint of duplicity in all the telepathic probes. It’s enough to convince the four, along with Cloud and Flower, two other Angels, and a contingent of Quarn military, to return with them for a brief visit. The story devolves into rawer emotions and darker motivations, which provide the force that propels it all forward. One of my few complaints with this story is that some of the external political plotting stuff isn’t quite as well explained as it could be, and when it is, it tends to be in a told not shown pattern. It’s not a major flaw at all, but it does leave me scratching my head a couple times as I try to sort it all out. At times like that, I was glad I had the more emotional aspects of the story to cling to. Political machinations are more cerebral than action-oriented anyway, and the author does show some of the effects of them, but the actual explanations weren’t concentrated or clear enough to fully satisfy me.

Maybe due to the slight problems I had keeping all the Machiavellian antics straight, the climax wasn’t as taut as I’ve come to expect from this author. There are two action sequences that take place back to back, but in both cases, the actual action felt sacrificed to go straight for the emotional jugular, details glossed over to expedite the actual physical conflict. My speed at reading slowed down for the last quarter instead of speeding up as is normal for me in this portion of the story, and thus watered down the overall effect. In the grand scheme of things, however, this is a minor complaint. The emotions are too rich not to make this a quality read. Anybody invested even a little bit in either couple will want to pick this up.


9/10 – The climax felt distant and more telling than showing, but other than that, keenly accessible and well-paced


8/10 – The four leads in this are far more emotionally available than previous books, but the secondary characters tend to blur


8/10 – The political machinations are vastly intriguing, while Dinun’s medical woes in the beginning poignant

Entertainment value

8/10 – My favorite of the three Encounters stories

World building

9/10 – The detail was all there, but some of the political stuff on Tuzax was difficult to keep straight



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