Collision with Paradise
Collision with Paradise has the strongest SF elements I have come across so far in Romanceland. Until now my experiences with Science Fiction are along the lines of “SF light” – futuristic romances and romantic SF movies like Gattaca and the X-Men When I began reading this book, I struggled a bit with all the technical terms and had to scroll back and forth on my PDA in order to grasp the initial situation on the spaceship. But once I did, I was quickly drawn into a creative and fascinating story, although its romantic aspect took a back seat to world-building.
It is 2130 and spaceship pilot Genevieve Dubois and 11 crew members are on board the organic spaceship “Zac” on an eighteen month journey to the planet Eos, 400 light years from Earth. Genevieve could as well have been all alone on the Eos mission, for everyone else is in permanent REM sleep until they reach their destination. In a symbiotic connection, theta waves generated by all crew members during REM sleep keep Zac fuelled and running. In return Zac cares for the sleepers’ physical and emotional needs and provides the dreamers with all their most secret sexual fantasies.
As the ship’s captain, Genevieve is awakened monthly by Zac to check up on the ship’s routines. Spaceship Zac has Artificial Intelligence and many human traits, fed to him by Genevieve to fit her personality. He tells juicy jokes, teases Genevieve and has a strong opinion – you get the picture.
Just before the crew reaches its destination, Zac collides with something unknown and crashes. Genevieve, wounded and believing herself the wreck’s sole survivor, is rescued (and eventually nursed back to health) by a naked, mauve-skinned Eosian male. She recognizes Azaes instantly, the good-looking spokesman in the Eosian messages sent to Earth fifteen years ago (all previous missions to Eos from Earth have failed). Azaes also is the same man who starred in her recent ship-board erotic dreams. Genevieve doesn’t know everything about her ship’s mission, and that it will bring danger and destruction to peaceful, paradise-like Eos and its people.
From the start, I was spellbound by Nina Munteanu’s perceptive yet unobtrusive writing and the intriguing, breathtaking storyline. The heroine’s clever portrayal captivated me, and seeing everything through her eyes put me right into the book’s vibrant world.
Genevieve is lovely, strong-willed, highly sexual, and athletic – but also restless and unhappy, and that absolute loneliness is palpable during her awake time on the ship. She has plenty of time to replay the past in her mind: Her husband’s death five years ago when his spaceship for unexplained reasons exploded on a similar Eos mission, and the death of her little boy. Genevieve remained in mourning ever since, unable to let go of her “ghosts.” The description of the complete silence and infinity of the universe around Genevieve and Zac poignantly echoes her frame of mind. Once on lush Eos – in complete contrast with the technical and rational reality of Zac -, she tries to cope with the strange, overwhelmingly sensual world. Genevieve kicks ass and holds her own ground when in danger, and when in conflict with Azaes.
Soul-drifter Azaes has the ability to invade and influence people’s dreams. Handsome and well-endowed, he is not as sharp and as compelling a character as Genevieve, but he always acts true and consistent to his own values and his world’s way of life. Eos’ people are brought up to live in accord with their environment. The Eosians learned from the errors of their mythical past. They detest violence and revere nature and their gods, the mysterious “Epoptes”. Against this background, Azaes is no actively charge-taking male in perilous situations, nor is he one of those “ready to kill to protect their woman at all cost” males. If acting violently is required to survive, Azaes would definitively fail. His mate has to be able to rescue herself – and him, too, if necessary!
In a vision his Goddess told him that finding his true mate – Genevieve – would also bring on his death, so Azaes doesn’t act upon their mutual attraction throughout most of the book. That intruder Genevieve represents danger for the Eosians is also a factor that Azaes cannot ignore. Although I understood the reasons for their continuing emotional distance from one another, I wished there had been more romantic interaction between the two, and was glad that their romance deepened toward the end of the story.
The sexual content is explicit and might be offensive to some readers. Genevieve has some unusual sex partners – to say more would reveal spoilers. And to my dismay, the story also features two rapes involving the heroine, though I admit they fit into the violent mood of the moments in which they happened.
The main focus of Collision with Paradise was on memorable Genevieve and the imaginative, complex, and sometimes violent world of Eos. The romance took a back seat to Genevieve’s development and world-building, and Azaes’ character came up somewhat short in comparison. And though I didn’t care for the Eosians’ beliefs and way of life, the book’s gripping atmosphere always felt compellingly real. Had the hero and romantic relationship between hero and heroine been better developed – and the rape scenes dropped – I could recommend Collision with Paradise unconditionally. As it is, it receives a qualified recommendation.