REVIEW: Your Planet or Mine? by Susan Grant
Dear Ms. Grant,
I started reading your books with the first in “The Star King” series. I fell in love. They were fresh and different. The “Banzai Maguire” book didn’t work as well for me though I applauded the risks you took. I had really hoped to enjoy “Your Planet or Mine?” but despite the great idea it was not to be.
Years ago, young Cavin Far Star accompanied his scientist father on fact finding missions to planets which the Coalition might be interested in taking over. On one of them, he met a young girl who believed in magic, who danced in the moonlight and who captured his heart. Jana Jasper, one of the “First Family of California” Jaspers has all but forgotten the magical boy she met twice when she was nine. All grown up now and carrying on her family’s legacy of public service as the youngest state senator in California, she is determined to get to the bottom of the recent spate of rumors, inuendo, and lies behind the smear campaign against them. The last thing she needs is for a handsome nutcase to follow her around the grocery store in her quest for “Phish Food.” But when he utters a nickname she hasn’t heard in decades, she finally, reluctantly, admits that it’s her magic boy returned to her — though all grown up now himself.
But what he has to tell her, stuns her. And the high tech robot assassin who’s tailing him and trying to kill him scares her. According to Cavin, Earth has finally reached the top of the Coalition’s, the ruling body of most of the galaxy, acquisision list and they’re headed this way to clear out the pesky humans and take over. He needs Jana to get him to her leader and help convince the Earth powers-that-be of the seriousness of the situation. He also needs access to a few things to help him help Earth to change the Coalition’s mind. He also hopes to finally be able to tell Jana what he’s always felt for her. That is, if they survive the many forces out to stop/get them.
As I said, it’s a great idea but one marred by slow scenes, long scenes and too many subplots. I started reading the prologue and kept reading and reading and reading it. After a while, I wondered when it was going to end. After 38 pages, that’s when. Who needs a 38 page prologue? I also felt that it needed a lot of tightening and editing. Scenes dragged on for far too long, long past when I lost interest in them.
And there were too many subplots — did we really need the whole sturgeon subplot and an assassin after Jana? I kept reading the early scenes of this plot thread wondering why the heck I was wasting my time reading them. Well I found out then wondered why you’d wasted pages with this? The fate of the whole world is at stake and as Jana (finally!) said about 250 or so pages into the book, who’s gonna care what happens to the fish when the frickin’ aliens land? You set up a great idea then sandbagged it. Jana learns the aliens are a comin’ and then wastes 48 hours with her state senate subcommittees and having lunch with the family at the cousin’s vodka/caviar bar. And isn’t this First Family of California worried about the public image of them slaming back shots of iced Stoly for lunch? I read this scene in disbelief. And just a personal decorating preference but the sister’s chocolate brown house didn’t make me hungry — it made me depressed. Who wants a totally brown house? Okay, that’s just me and doesn’t really have much to do with the book.
The fact that Jana keeps heading back to places she would be known to go to – her apartment, her senate offices, the family compound — when she’s got a suspicion someone’s after her didn’t raise my view of her intelligence. I mean someone breaks into her apartment, the REEF takes shots at her as she’s first remeeting Cavin and then she heads back to places where anyone following her would then know to go. The scene where grandpa tells Cavin not to be afraid to touch Jana (and the implication is in a sexual way) is just wrong. It was another scene I read in disbelief and with a (not good) shudder.
I read reviews in which people took you to task for reusing so many well known movie plots such as Terminator and Independence Day. Honestly, this didn’t bother me. Actually, when you stuck to these I enjoyed the book the best. Those parts zipped by, kept me interested and made me want to read more. They’re the reason the book gets a C even after all the gripping I did. I just wish there had been more of them.
This book can be purchased in eform.
Jayne, thanks so much for reviewing this…I visit this site daily, and as a fan of futuristic/SF romance, I love seeing books in this subgenre reviewed (if you want to review more, I swear I won’t complain, heh heh!). I’ve really learned a lot from the reviews here.
However, this review only feeds my suspicion about many books on the shelves, namely, that so few succeed at nailing that delicate balance of good SF and good romance (as opposed to SF with romance elements). For right now, I’ll stick with the likes of Linnea Sinclair.
I would really love to hear more about what you think makes a solid SF romance. Advice for aspiring authors in this subgenre is also welcome, hint hint!
I gave this book a similar “score”, but not for all the things you listed. My first Susan Grant was Contact, and I thought that was such a good book, I’ve compared it to everything else she’s done. Your Planet or Mine and it’s sequels (or, “series followups”?) felt like “SF-lite”. More like Chic Lit in tone. Not bad, just not a favorite “flavor” of mine.
Heather, if you haven’t tried her Contact, I would sincerely recommend it. It got some grief because it involves a highjacked plane (well, sort of) and it was released after 9/11 and Wal-Mart refused to carry it in their stores. I don’t remember specifics any more, it was five years ago!
The thing I remember most strongly about that book was the reaction of the people on the plane as they came face-to-face with people claiming to be aliens. So many SF romance books (and paranormals) gloss of this “first contact”. “Oh, you’re what? Really. Cool.”
In this story, some got angry, some got scared, some flat-out denied all of it. Some got busy, some curled up in a ball and cried. Some suspected conspiracies. All human reactions. IMHO, in Contact, she got them right!
Jayne, it weren’t for “google alerts” I never would have known you had posted this review. I came over to thank you for taking the time to review my book, and for being so clear in what you enjoyed or didn’t about the story. Of all my books, this one was the most troublesome for readers of mine. Once again, I was trying something different. Sometimes it works, sometimes it “don’t” For those on the fence after this review, I humbly offer this addtional info before you make a decision: Planet was a PRISM nominee, a PEARL winner, and for this SF blogger and others, it was the book that brought them to my writing:
(for those interested in SFR or trying SFR you might enjoy the interview) There are links to her review of this series at the bottom).
Heather, I have 10 books in print, and 7 of those are SF romance! I’m so proud ot say that. Like the very talented Linnea Sinclair, I am one of the pioneers of this subgenre, having published The Star King in 2000. My hope is that you will not discount all my books based on my foray into SF Rom Com.
Jayen, many felt as you do about Planet, and my 2176 action books, but equally both experiments won me new readers that liked THOSE books. (like SFChick above) I guess one thing no one can accuse me of is turning out the same story book after book! Repetitive? me! Nah. :) Maybe I should have stuck to the same “formula.” I didn’t and took risks to avoid boredom. (and to remain published in what was only a few years ago a VERY SFR un-friendly publising world.
You might be happy to hear that I have now joyfully returned to my roots as a SFR writer. Moonstruck, which comes out end of May 08 is darker, richer, more complex. Jayne, I would love to offer you an early copy for review or even just for pleasure, as your intelligent opinion is always welcome. For my readers waiting for me to “come to my senses,” I have! And for the readers who have liked them all, keep reading, I think Moonstruck is the best thing I’ve produced since Contact.
Thanks to all for all your words. Critical or complimentary, I value them all.
Heather, honestly I don’t read that many SF Romance books for the very reason you name. It’s so hard for authors to get that balance. I’ve also noticed that of the authors (especially ebook authors) tend to write their SFR books in the erotica subcategory. One that despite all the books I’ve tried, I still don’t particulary enjoy. I want more romance instead of just different alien body parts slamming together.
I think Miki’s suggestion of trying Ms. Grant’s book “Contact” is a good one. It’s also a book I enjoyed a lot. As you say, Miki, the varied reactions of the humans in ‘contact’ with the aliens was dead on.
Ms. Grant, certainly no one can accuse you of writing the same old same old! I would imagine that in the SFR genre this would be even more important than other romance categories. And I don’t think you “lost your senses” when you wrote these various books.
I’d love to try “Moonstruck” and look forward to seeing what you’ll dream up next. What would you say is the current status of SFR? Is it shrinking, expanding, changing? Lurking in the background behind all the fantasy/paranormal vampire/werewolf/whatever books?
I’m out of town but wanted to jump in, Jayne, to answer your question quickly: I think SFR is expanding, slowly. We’re getting more crossover readers from SF. Less romance reader are “fearful” of trying something with SF in it. The stigma of being associated with the “futuristic romance” genre of the 90s has mostly gone away. Linnea and I have both had our SFR books win in the major award cateogries like the RITA. (romance’s “Oscar” as you know). I’ve seen my sales numbers rising the past year or so, despite my “experimentation”, if you will. I see Linnea doing very, very, well. Is SFR still the “poor stepsister” to shapeshifters, vampires, etc? You betcha. Are we growing? I think so.
I am a big Susan Grant fan. Contact is one of my favorite romances ever and I adored the 2176 series. I was unpublished when it came out and remember after reading it that I just HAD to write for Dorchester!!
To be completely honest, at first I was a little worried when I heard Susan was switching publishers and doing something different. But I have to say I really enjoyed Your Planet or Mine — it was a lot of fun!! I have the sequel in my TBR pile and am looking forward to reading that as well.
And so cool to hear about Moonstruck!! Can’t wait!!
Also, as someone who writes hybrids herself, I hear about the “balance” thing ALL the time. It’s tricky to do, honestly. You want to give the sci-fi fans their world and technology and all that coolness, but not neglect the love story that the romance fans are looking for. But if you worry about it too much while writing, you’ll drive yourself crazy and end up not pleasing anyone.
My hope is that readers will just relax and enjoy the story – and not be quick to dismiss something because they feel it leans too far into one genre or another.
I’ve given up on both SFR and Fantasy Romance. My ebook reader is suffering from my wall-banging. Having said that, I’m going to try Contact – the comments here have intrigued me.
I thoroughly enjoyed Susan Grant’s second book in the series, My Favorite Earthling,
and I am looking forward to reading How To Lose An ExtraTerrestrial.
I’m really happy to see Dear Author reviewing SFR and I’d love to see more reviews in this subgenre.
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking of Romance and Science Fiction as being mutually exclusive, when the division is not so binary. I didn’t have a problem with the differences in the mix of Rom/SF in Grant’s novels. Rather, I enjoyed them for different reasons and in different ways. Sometimes I’m up for harder Science Fiction and sometimes I want more Romance with my SF. I don’t place a value on either type as better than the other. It’s all what I’m in the mood for.
Lisa, if you or anyone else has some suggestions of non-erotica SFR for me to try, I’m more than willing to check them out. I can’t say for certain I’ll read them but I will check out blurbs and reviews.
Jane, a book I’m looking forward to next month is Linnea Sinclair’s “The Down Home Zombie Blues” (yes, it really is SFR).
I read Patti O’Shea’s “Ravyn’s Flight” 5 years ago when it came out – loved it then, but I’ll admit I don’t remember a lot of the details.
And I’ve got Patricia Waddell’s “True Blood” on my TBR pile, but I’ve heard good things about it!
Miki, we at DA actually got an arc of “Down Home Zombie Blues” and after Janine’s glowing review of another Sinclair book a few months ago, I’ve been meaning to check her out. Lemme see if I can reshuffle the November arcs I have stacked up to read and make some room for this one. Thanks for jogging my memory.
Does Waddell write paranormals? Or am I thinking of someone else? Is she straight SFR?
One author I’ve read and enjoyed her books is Lyssa Hart. She’s got some out at New Concepts. I’ve fixed the tags on so you can check out the reviews I’ve done (at the top right of this page).
Hey, Jane! Not sure, to be honest. She’s in my TBR pile based on a recommendation, but I haven’t read her yet. If I remember correctly, she’s written more historical romance that SFR. I suspect her SFR is stronger on the romance than the SF…maybe like Catherine Spangler or CJ Barry? I want to add Robin Owens to that list, but she’s another SFR (or “futuristic romance”) writer I’ve got in my TBR pile but haven’t read yet, so I’m not sure about her SFR.
IMHO, Linnea Sinclair is very good at straddling the SFR fence, but it can give her grief sometimes from readers. “True” SFF enthusiasts complain there’s too much romance. Romance readers might get impatient with the amount of SF in her work.
I’ll admit for Games of Command I was so taken with the main characters that I wanted more romance, less science fiction. (And some people might think the cutesy sentient cats were a bit much). Her Gabriel’s Ghost is my favorite of hers, and I also think it has the strongest romance.
But that’s not to say her SF isn’t fun…I really do think she’s strong in both. I think Zombie is going to be a little different that the other books from Sinclair and I’m looking forward to reading it.
I don’t know what that little smilie is doing in my last post. It was supposed to be an end parenthesis!
Hi Jayne! I’d love to recommend a few. Like Miki, I’ve also enjoyed Linnea Sinclair’s books. So far I think her Gabriel’s Ghost is my favorite. Other books I’d recommend include CJ Barry’s Unmasked, any of Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire series, anything by Lois McMaster Bujold (though my favorite is Cordelia’s Honor), and Joan Vinge’s Summer Queen/Snow Queen series. Also among my favorites are the Jenny Casey trilogy by Elizabeth Bear, Technogenesis by Syne Mitchell, Nylon Angel by Marianne de Pierres, and Sharon Shinn’s Jenna Starborn, which is a re-imaging of Jane Eyre. There’s also the 2176 series that Susan Grant bookended with The Legend of Banzai Maguire and The Scarlet Empress. I’ve read Banzai and Patti O’Shea’s The Power of Two; the rest of the books in the series are in my TBR pile. The Shomi books look interesting too, but I haven’t had time to check them out yet.
Lisa I read quite a few of the titles you mentioned. I also enjoyed reading Rowena Cherry’s books Forced Mate and her latest one Insufficient Mating Material.
Leeann, I’ll have to add those to my TBR pile. I really think I need to clone myself just to read all the books I’m interested in. Thanks!
Wow, I didn’t know this thread was still on-going. Cool! I meant to jump in here way back when and apologized to Sue for not doing so, but we had a family emergency and that took me away from my much-beloved computer time.
I’m a longtime Sue Grant fan. I love that fact that she so neatly brings romance fans into the SF/SFR genres. That’s not an easy task, trust me. It’s also not easy because, as Sue and I have discussed, it’s difficult to find editors who work both aisles. Very often we’re edited by someone who has a heavy romance background or science background. This affects the balance and tone of the final book. Yeah, we write our stories and yeah, we write for our readers. But when your editor says CUT or CHANGE THIS (and they’re the ones signing the checks), you do so or you do give it very serious thought. I’ll come right out and say I’ve made significant changes to my work based on my editor’s recommendations and sometimes I get feedback from fans that that wasn’t what they wanted. But when you’re hip-deep in writing and editing, it’s not always easy to figure that out. My editor’s feedback is the one I’m getting at the moment. I personally think she’s brilliant and I adore her. But sometimes we’re off base. Sometimes we’re spot-on.
Thanks all for your kind comments on my books! Again, I’m trying to keep as many people happy in both aisles as I can. I can never make everyone happy but I try as hard as I can.
Recommendations: don’t forget small press. I came out of that and there are still very groundbreaking works being penned there. Stacey Klemstein’s ZARA MITCHELL series starts with THE SILVER SPOON (Echelon Press) and continues in Feb 08 with EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. Think Roswell. Think Starman. Think V. With romance.
Isabo Kelly is another name to watch. She writes fantasy but also has SFR in her Marshall’s Guard and Kierna Rhoan (I may have that last spelled incorrectly–working with only two cups of coffee under my belt).
Pat Waddell also came out of small press: her Alliance was a small press release. She wrote historicals (Kensington, I think?) and is now back in SFR with Tor.
I think what’s happening–and this is IMHO–is that since SFR doesn’t have a clearly defined niche, following or shelf (I’m shelved in SF, Sue’s in romance), you’re going to get a bit of mixing of sub-sub genres in our books until we find our place in the sun, or in the galaxy as the case may be. Some, like Sue and Rowena Cherry, will inject more humor in certain books (to try to take the scary edge off SF or just because, hey, it’s one of those snarky days). Klemstein writes much more intensely. Me, it depends on how much caffeine is in my veins.
So some of our stuff may be lighter (and that may annoy certain readers). Some may be more intense (and that may annoy certain readers). I get flack for writing in first person (Gabriel’s Ghost). I get flack for my furzels (Games of Command). (I also get lots of kudos on both, so who’s to figure?). I think some of it comes from “well, I read X by Y last year and it had a certain flavor and was SFR, and now I’m reading yours and it’s nothing like that.”
Nope, chances are, it’s not. SFR is still expanding and evolving, trying to do what no other genre has to date: be both “tastes great” and “less filling” at the same time.
Please just keep reading us, talking about the books, posting to blogs and telling booksellers that SFR is a Fun Read. We love the feedback. We think the future is, well, very very exiciting (even if the ‘future’ is my character’s present day).
Hugs all, ~Linnea, back to deadlines…