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REVIEW: Collision Course by Zoe Archer

Dear Ms. Archer,

My track record with space sci-fi romance (SSFR) has been terrible of late. There are moments when I wonder why I continually punish myself with middling (at best) SSFR when there is so much incredible romance reading available out there. But I do it because I’m hunting for that perfect mix of ultimate sci-fi, white knuckle action, strong H/H’s, hot sex and gut-wrenching emotions all taking place in or around a universe/galaxy/star system that includes places like Coruscant. What can I say? I’m on the hunt for the holy grail of SSFR and I’m a tough crowd to please.

With Collision Course there were elements that definitely put me in my happy galaxy all wrapped neatly into a 194 page package. But before I get to the nitty gritty, a brief summary is in order: Smuggler and pilot Mara Skiren depends upon her flying and negotiating skills to get her out of tight spots. But when the 8th Wing comes calling, she’s forced to take on a mission and a partner, seemingly straight laced ace pilot Commander Kell Frayne.

Collision Course by Zoe ArcherLieutenant Jur, an 8th Wing pilot, and her ship are missing and the 8th Wing has received confirmation that the ship (and possibly the pilot) is being held for an auction by another smuggler in the Smoke Quadrant. Before they fall into the hands of PRAXIS (the bad guys out to rule the universe), Mara and Kell must rescue Jur (hopefully) and her ship. The 8th Wing has never ventured into the Smoke Quadrant and know that they wouldn’t be welcome there if they could make it past the treacherous entry. Mara’s reputation as a hotshot pilot earns her the honor of escorting Kell into the smugglers’ realm. The thought of having a partner, or anyone at all, on her ship is an anathema to Mara, but Jur’s ship can only be flown by another 8th Wing pilot so she’s stuck with Kell, a man who instantly revs her engine to light speed. Deep space hijinx ensue with super action, hot wardrobe changes, and a lot of heat building.

I was impressed by the amount of worldbuilding, personality, action and depth that was squeezed into the short(er) format of this book. Ms. Archer does an excellent job of providing us the histories of the H/H that isn’t infodumptastic, and imparts knowledge about the world of PRAXIS/8th Wing by introducing them through conversation and observation rather than simple descriptive paragraphs.

Mara is the type of pilot and leader that anyone would want around: arrogant, sure of herself, but not too stupid to dismiss advice or learn something new, and not afraid to let someone lend a hand to that effect. While her protectiveness of Kell could be viewed as either cute or Mary Sue, I felt that it underlined her confidence in herself and her abilities. Kell is a super-growly Alpha, but he actually takes a backseat to Mara when they head into the Smoke Quadrant. When he sits back and lets her take over, he revels in the strong woman she is rather than worrying that she’s going to give herself a paper cut, which was a relief. That he’s turned on by her awesome piloting skills and amazed by her er…smuggling skillz (and more her confidence in both) was HAWT. Both Kell and Mara have complicated pasts that clearly (and easily) explain why they are where they are. Reading about them and how they learn each other’s pasts was an experience I’d repeat. One thing to note here: the book blurb said something about Kell wanting to sleep with Mara to get him out of her system, or some such nonsense. I don’t like the “fuck her to forget her” approach, and during the course of the book, this was not Kell’s approach to his attraction to Mara at all. Thank goodness.

There were things that I didn’t like here. There were things that really annoyed me that veered from trope into territory that I recognized. Smuggler/hotshot space pilot coerced into working for the “good guys” sounds all too familiar; all that’s missing is a hairy sidekick. The city of Beskidt By in the Smoke Quadrant made me think of this line: “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” And when Mara and Kell enter the bar, I couldn’t get this out of my head. But overall, this is the best SSFR I’ve read in a long time. So what did I do? Damn skippy; I enjoyed it. B

~ Shuzluva

Book Link | Kindle | nook | Borders
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Sydney (better known by her handle, Shuzluva) knew that she wanted to be Han Solo's copilot after seeing Star Wars at the tender age of 5. She fell in love with romance novels over 20 years ago when she got her hands on Sandra Brown's Texas! trilogy, and in the mid 90's was overjoyed to discover romance writers had branched out into the world of SciFi/fantasy. While she enjoys the occasional contemporary or historical novel, the world of SciFi holds an unshakable fascination for her. Some of her favorite authors include Nalini Singh, Catherine Asaro and Kresley Cole, and she's always interested in adding new authors to the list.

11 Comments

  1. Jan
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 05:52:52

    Ah, Shuzluva, I’m on a quest for the perfect SSFR as well. Since I liked Archers Blades of the Rose series, I’m more than willing to try this one.

    Short hijack: I commented on the Kiss of Snow thread, but it’s probably lost in all the giveaway entries, but I’d really like to discuss the gender role thing in Play of Passion with you. It’s my favorite Psy-Changeling book precisely because of the role inversion, and the deeper take on pack mechanisms, so please by all means, contact me :)

    Oh, and I don’t know if you’re active on Goodreads, but there’s a SFR group there where I’ve discovered some books that were unknown to me, so maybe that’s something for you as well.

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  2. Edie
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 06:32:34

    Was glad to come across this review, I picked it up on impulse the other day and was hesitating to start it due to similar reservations. I’ll have to push it to the top of the TBR.

    I reckon a full thread could be done on gender roles in psy/changeling series and their lopsidedness. I adore that series… but…

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  3. FD
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 07:07:45

    @Edie:

    I reckon a full thread could be done on gender roles in psy/changeling series and their lopsidedness. I adore that series… but…

    Yes, this. Not that the series is faily generally, but…

    And this is the third good review of the book I’ve seen that emphasises the heroes’ enjoyment of the heroine’s strength. Although I liked the Blades books initially , by the third I wasn’t grabbed enough to continue – a little info dumpy for me. This sounds like it might be more my cup of tea.

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  4. Heather Massey
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 08:15:41

    Glad this one worked for you, and thanks for continuing to brave the new frontier of SFR!

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  5. Christine M.
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 09:45:45

    This is a great review and the cover caught my eyes immediately. I’ll definitely pick it up!

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  6. readerdiane
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 10:39:36

    I just finished Collision Course this week. I found it to be a very enjoyable read. The characters were well developed but enough was left open that they can be developed further.I agree that the World building was very well done. The other thing I like was that the sex was the only major conflict in the book-it didn’t take over the book. I look forward to reading more about these characters-hopefully.

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  7. readerdiane
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 10:41:11

    Sorry-sex wasn’t the only conflict!

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  8. Charlotte
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 12:32:12

    I am really looking forward to this one -it’s languishing in the TBR pile right now, waiting until I am in the perfect mood for SSFR. Don’t want to waste a good read on the wrong mood.
    I also often find myself dispairing over the lack of truly excellent space opera romance, but I, too, shall venture forth undaunted. (Huh, can you tell I’m on a historical romance binge right now?)

    But what really tickled me about this review is the name of the city -Beskidt By. My eyes almost didn’t notice it because that is my first language, Danish. It is possibly the same in Swedish (a lot of overlap there) and Archer did have a Swedish heroine in Rebel. She must have some sort of Scandinavian connection…
    Anyway, fun seeing that here -not often you stumble over those languages when on English sites. We are, after all, not all that numerous.
    In case anyone was wondering, Beskidt By translates to Dirty City.

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  9. Sandra
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 23:11:09

    Smuggler/hotshot space pilot coerced into working for the “good guys” sounds all too familiar

    Yeah, there’s a bit of Han/Leia going on there, but it’s nice to see the roles reversed. “Get out of the way, flyboy.”

    I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of Archer’s so far, and this was no exception. I wished the book was longer, because I didn’t want it to end. But she did what she needed to do. Got them in, saved the day, got them out, and plenty of hot sex in between. And just a hint of sequel bait.

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  10. Merrian
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 05:34:39

    I was wondering about the names of books and how they are selected or managed. We have only recently had the m/m book ‘Collision Course’ by KA Mitchell published and reviewed which makes it confusing to say the least and interesting if expecting one you get the other.

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  11. DA reviews: Collision Course by Zoe Archer « Smart Girls love SciFi
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 15:51:04

    [...] is a great review of Zoe Archer’s SFR, Collision Course, posted at Dear Author. Way to go [...]

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