|Susan Sizemore: The Gates of Hell|
Press (Trade Paperback),
Self-described space pirate Pyr -- captain of the Raptor and, to his chagrin, more famous for his headgear than his bad-ass attitude -- ran into a problem on his way to save a major portion of the known universe. Someone kidnapped Pyr's son. Pyr suspects a major Bucon drug dealer. Unfortunately, Pyr knows so many.
Equally unfortunate: Pyr and his crew need most of these dealers alive. Exposed to the deadly plague ravaging the planets bordering the Rose Nebula, Pyr and his shipmates can only survive by ingesting regular doses of the highly addictive, personality altering drug called "Rust." Then, just to make things more interesting, the high priest of a local death cult arranges to inject Pyr with a slow acting, irreversible poison.
On a plague-ridden planet not so far away, empathic healer and trained physician Roxanne Merkrates struggles to find a cause and cure for the plague. But powerful factions don't want Roxy or anyone to discover a cure. Even the help of Martin Braithwaite, the second most dangerous man alive, may not prove enough to save her. Roxy may need Pyr as much as he needs her.
Anyone with a taste for intelligent space opera, ala Lois McMasters Bujold, will love Gates of Hell. Strong, appealing central characters with smart mouths and sharp wits lead the reader through the breathless twists and turns of a plot within a conspiracy wrapped inside a secret.
Sizemore keeps the science light but consistent. She never makes any of the boners that frequently mar science fiction novels that emphasize futuristic adventure over hard science. At the same time, Sizemore delivers a sizzling romance made all the more delicious by the lovers' patently futile attempts to avoid it.
Finally, Sizemore even finds a way to make basketball metaphors relevant. Speaking as a founding member of the All Team Sports Avoidance League, that takes talent. Luckily Sizemore -- like her characters -- has talent to spare.
Jean Marie Ward
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