Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written two. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Alone, a character-driven science fiction romance, by Martha Fawcett.
Characters: This is the story of Mellé, a woman in the far future who has everything except happiness. In fact, the first line of Alone is “Mellé was crying again.” In her quest to escape the pain of her husband’s betrayal, Mellé runs across a rich cast of characters, from felines (don’t call them “cats;” it’s a slur in at least one alien culture) to aliens to androids to even a few fellow humans.
Mellé’s physical description is limited. Martha describes her as “pretty,” and about a quarter of the way into the book, she describes Mellé as having “apricot-blonde hair” and blue-green eyes. Personality traits get more attention:
She was eighteen years old, pretty, and ambitious. Her meager assets consisted of a 5,000-credit legacy from her mother and a will forged of something that made steel appear fragile. Fortunately, her will was clever, helping her parlay her meager 5,000 credits into a small business that, in time, brought her great wealth. Along with her will, The Muses had blessed her with the gift of a discriminate ear. As a child, she could identify the different songs of the many coral birds that sang outside her bedroom window. Later, she recognized that the sound of footsteps foretold who waited at her door. By the time she reached adulthood, her ears were finely tuned instruments of listening. Of course, she loved music and she could hear like no other soul inside creation.
Mellé marries a musician, Dulce Coeur, who is a human-alien blend. With him, though it’s all backstory, Mellé builds an interstellar music empire. Dulce, too is physically described in impressions, though dialogue and action are concrete and detailed.
Dulce had come to Mellé as love’s disciple, hot and dark with flashing Gathosian eyes. A potent memory stole Mellé’s mind and she saw Dulce run out of the surf and sink down before her in the sand. The day remained as clear as glass in her memory. “Did you miss me?” he asked and he kissed her lightly on the lips.
“You taste like the ocean,” she told him.
“You mean I taste like a woman.” He was clever and knew it and a slight smile betrayed his pride.
Other interesting characters include the galaxy’s premier maker of androids, the alien Jana Revba; and several of the androids, Michaels one and two, and perhaps my favorite character, Kyoto. Android Kyoto is modeled on a Japanese geisha, but “jumps” her programming, in a sort of analog to the “biological” players who also learn and develop, albeit more slowly and painfully.
Plot: After witnessing her husband’s infidelity with a seductive alien witch, Mellé buys a the space ship Intrinsic, complete with android pilot and major-domo Michael, and flees aimlessly across the galaxy in an attempt to find herself and leave heartbreak behind. In the process, she meets a range of beings who lead her to revelations about her own nature and the nature of love.
Setting: Alone is spread across nearly a century of time and countless light-years of space. While Martha delves deeply into the emotional journey, she doesn’t neglect the colorful back drop of the physical journey.
Mellé stood under the west-side portico of El Cantar, staring into the darkening sky as she waited for an airfloat taxi to appear. Dark green and purple auroras churned on the horizon. The sky grumbled like a sleepy old man and then huge raindrops splashed, sounding a rat-a-tat-tat of timpani on the marble walkway. The rainy season finally was beginning.
What I thought could’ve been done better: Alone, while a wonderful story, could’ve stood a good third-party proofreading. I love this description of Belleth, the alien witch who seduces Dulce, but the omission of the word “of” in the second sentence’s beginning provides a needless speed-bump.
Belleth displayed her hands— her magic tools— beckoning the crowd to gather round. Each her hands were small and dainty with three long fingers and an opposing thumb. Her nails were long, sharp, and lacquered red; her lips stained scarlet.
It’s a minor typo, and even the best-edited books usually have one or two, but left to proliferate they can put a bruise on an otherwise fine tale. I think about a dozen or so jumped out at me over the course of the book.
One thing that wasn’t quite clear for me — Mellé spends 81 years in space without aging. Eventually, she goes in search of Dulce, finding him still alive, while many of their contemporaries have long since died. Can Mellé’s agelessness be described by faster than light travel through space for 81 years? Perhaps, but I never found it satisfactorily addressed. Dulce remained planet-bound all that time, so how does that work?
It’s a clarity issue, though for me, a minor one.
What I thought was good: Martha has a wonderful writing style, liberally lacing her prose with the similes and metaphors that make the words come alive.
Belleth possessed a special talent. She had the ability to make her voice smooth, like sweet, melting ice cream.
“…like sweet melting ice cream.” Love it.
I also liked Martha’s imaginative scifi elements. “Xeytinic mold,” for instance, attacks Melle’s ship, the Intrinsic.
“It’s a terror that spares nothing,” said Michael. “Its mutation rate is exponential and deadly. Its favorite food is organic matter. Once the organic is gone, Xeytinic digests plastics until only metals remain. Eventually, Xeytinic alters its pH enough to consume selective metals until it reaches the ship’s hull. At this stage, Xeytinic possesses the ability to go dormant as if waiting for a new vehicle to make a jump to fresh territory. There were claims Xeytinic was a conscious lifeforms because of its apparent uncanny ability to anticipate that jump.”
The real star of Alone, imho, is Martha’s intense exploration of the different aspects of love and emotion.
Despite her sworn oath to extirpate the fragile taproots of love from her soul, love was still alive. She knew that now. “ Love is not a rose as Dulce always insisted. Love is a tenacious weed that can never be destroyed.” She was afraid of her need for love. If her love for Michael was still alive, did that mean her love for Dulce was alive too? She was crying again, this time for herself. Great tears of self-pity flowed; these were the bitterest tears of all.
As weeks rolled on, thoughts of suicide passed through her mind in the abstract. “Would it be as easy as finishing a game of astrological croquet?”
Martha’s love scenes are both passionate and articulate.
He gave her a look of pure love. He kissed her, drinking her in as she turned to smooth cream under his lips. “The need will never go away between us— it can’t,” he whispered. “The need is old, very old. When you uncover your oldest, most primitive self, I am there, your Genesis self— your need for completion.”
She’s not afraid to deal with sexuality either, whether it’s male on male or “bio” on android. I think part of the reason Martha is successful is that she keeps the sexual aspects firmly rooted in emotion, so that sex is not gratuitous, but a logical outcome.
Martha also peppers her story with gemlike observations, such as this one:
Life, the goulash of physical reality, again waited with confusing certainty for her interaction.
Life is a goulash, isn’t it? And I’d agree that life’s confusing nature is its one certainty. Well put.
Overall: I like reading romances from time to time, because they give me great insights for the female characters in my own writing. Alone features such insights in quantity and depth, finely put, and with the added bonus of an imaginative science fiction backdrop. In Alone, Martha offers a fine exploration of a galaxy teeming with sentient life, mirroring a similarly detailed exploration of one woman’s emotional universe.
In the end, Mellé may be an “every woman” — or perhaps an “every human,” seeking the same thing we all want, here or far away — a chance to love and be loved.
Well done, Martha!
And for sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thrillers, check out my own novel American Goddesses on Amazon or Smashwords, and the newly published sequel Rogue Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!