THE GATES OF HELL – by Susan Sizemore
I normally tear through books like a piranha in a chum tank, but with sci-fi I have to slow down a bit to absorb new worlds, new technology, to boldly going where no reader has gone before. In The Gates of Hell, the author does a skillful job of settling the reader into the world building by trickling in details. I found myself eating up the information about alien races, worlds, technology, and culture. It was very well done.
Sizemore does an equally good job of differentiating her characters, and developing their identities. There are a lot of characters in this book, but they are introduced in manageable chunks. The tone was very true to the genre, so I paid particular attention to secondary characters as they often play a strong part in sci-fi.
The Gates of Hell was shaping up to be an intriguing novel, about a devastating plague, the healer trying to halt it, and a seemingly unconnected space pirate looking for a kidnapped crew member. I love the complex plots that occur in this genre, and I was eager to see how it all came together. Who is this driven, ruthless pirate, and what role will he play in the crisis decimating entire planets? Will the healer be able to pause in the exhausting task of healing one person at a time in order to concentrate on finding a cure? Time is running out!
And then, halfway through the novel, it turned into a romance.
I kid you not. It was like a different writer took over the book, flipped it ninety degrees, and rode off into the sunset on a white horse. None of the first half of the book prepared me in any way for this abrupt change. Out of the blue, this sci-fi about conspiracy, bio-warfare, and drug running became chock full of life-mate bonding and telepathic pheromones. Yes, there was still a conspiracy and a plague, but all that took a back seat to steamy romance.
But, you ask, didn’t you see the cover? Aren’t you aware that Susan Sizemore writes romances? Yes and Yes. But covers are often perplexingly different than the story inside. I also got the feeling, reinforced by the first half of the book, that the author was crossing into a new genre. I love romance. I would have been thrilled to read this as a romance, if only the first half of the novel had been set up that way.
Overall, it was two halves of two good books, unfortunately glued together. The first half was a nice sci-fi, the last half was a nice romance, but the change from one to the other was disruptive to the tone and flow of the book. I wish there had been two books. One the sci-fi the author had so compellingly begun to weave, and another in the typical romance style. Those familiar with Sizemore’s romance writings may not find this as jarring as I did though. Two stars. I wish with all of my heart I could have given it more. It had such potential.