Susan Kearney,
The Ultimatum
(Tor, 2006)

Susan Kearney is a new author to me, but I was delighted to encounter her on The Ultimatum, her third outing. This is a book of well conceived and written science fiction with heart.

Alara is an Endekian woman enslaved to a biology whereby she must have sex in order to regenerate her cells. Any man is a temptation for her. She has dedicated her research to finding a way of suppressing this problem. Xander demands aid in his quest to find a cure to a deadly disease believed to be a result of the planet's heavy pollution. But he is an enemy and Alara won't cooperate, so Xander kidnaps her. As events unfold Alara eventually succumbs to mating with an enemy. More is at stake than their differences with billions at risk from the deadly disease.

The story thunders along introducing readers to new worlds. Hidden in the long grass of the tale is the need for social equality in any world. The characters bring us a myriad of different cultures and peoples. The primary characters evolve and develop and their relationship progresses from one of convenience to respect and love.

An interesting subplot works well and adds to the story. Watch out for Clarie the alien, who joins their search for the cure. The multi-tasking "suits" are fascinating; doing everything from keeping them clean to creating outfits.

This story hits all the right notes of science fiction without losing the fact that readers need real characters regardless of the location of the action or the flights of inventive fancy.

With a character called Kirek left in a coma, his fate unknown until the publication of his own story in The Quest, Kearney's next book, we enter serial territory -- no bad thing to encourage readers. With Kearney you can look forward to new adventures or revisit the earlier two books that stand alone but may also offer a deeper understanding of The Ultimatum.

by Nicky Rossiter
6 January 2007

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