Wen Spencer,
Bitter Waters
(Roc, 2003)

Bitter Waters is a futuristic mystery story, the third in of a series by Wen Spencer. The story is complete on its own, but at the end you are left with problems that need to be dealt with another day. You are also given a feel for some of what has gone on in the first two books of the series.

The continual character development adds another dimension to the story. Ukiah Oregon is still coming to terms with who he is -- as he is not entirely human -- and his role in society. For instance, his relationship with Max, his partner and mentor, changes as Ukiah matures.

Not all relationships in the book work so well, and at times come to cross-purposes. Goodman and Core have a minor disagreement over what to do with a kidnapped kid. Both of them are rather creepy individuals once you get to know them. Other relationships remain guarded secrets -- and Special Indigo Zheng cannot admit to knowing any of the Pack as all of them are on most wanted lists.

The story itself starts with a relatively simple case of a missing child. Ukiah finds the child quickly enough but soon finds himself in the middle of a larger case. His involvement in grows as first a Homeland Security agent visits and then his son Kittanning is kidnapped. From there he finds himself on the trail of both his son and a set of alien biological superweapons.

From the first moment Bitter Waters is about pursuit and tracking -- the target changing as information is gathered and enemies strike. The tension builds nicely with some last-minute heroics to save the day. The Ontogard, an alien race working quietly to take over the Earth, don't play a direct role in what happens, but they are a consideration in all that Ukiah and his allies do. The book adds an exciting chapter to the continuing adventures of Ukiah Oregon.

- Rambles
written by Paul de Bruijn
published 10 October 2003

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