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Touched by an Alien, by Gini Koch

Gini Koch’s Touched by an Alien [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] opens with Katherine “Kitty” Katt killing a rampaging alien with a Mont Blanc pen. Based on this act of impulsive heroism, a group of hot aliens from Alpha Centauri recruit her into a secret organization devoted to finding and stopping these evil superbeings.

If you hadn’t guessed, on a scale of fluff to serious, this one falls closer to the fluff end of things. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve written a fair amount of fluff myself, after all. This world needs more light, fun stories!

As with most books, there were things I liked, and there were things that didn’t work for me as well. It’s a quick-paced story with plenty of action, both alien butt-kicking and romantic/sexual. And I appreciated that Koch  used her A-C aliens to explore religious prejudice and other issues. It wasn’t just heroic aliens coming to fight evil; there was a bit more backstory going on there.

The biggest thing that bothered me was the way the relationship between Katt and the A-C Jeff Martini progressed.  The explicitly sexual scenes weren’t a problem, but the jealousy and possessiveness both Jeff and another A-C display toward Katt cross the line into creepy, as in this exchange:

He grabbed my upper arms. “Prove it.”

“Prove what? Jeff, I–”

“Prove who you belong to.” His eyes flashed as he pulled me to him and kissed me.

I know this sort of aggressive domination comes up in a fair number of romances. And I recognize that there’s a lot of fantasy and wish-fulfillment going on in this book. All of the A-Cs are gorgeous, the men and women both, but they’re only interested in intellect and personality, making Katt the hottest thing on the base. And Katt has some of that Harry Potter chosen one thing going on, where she’s the one who discovers most of the solutions and saves the day. In a more serious novel, I don’t think it would work. In a lighter wish-fulfillment book, it mostly does.

I know that for some people, having a hot, sexy man (or woman) aggressively pursuing and dominating you can be a very attractive fantasy. But Jeff kept setting off my domestic violence warning bells. There were external reasons for some of what happened, but it didn’t work for me.

I’d say that if your warning bells are similar to mine, that might be a problem in reading this one. On the other hand, if you appreciate that kind of fictionalized/fantasy romantic aggression and assertiveness, I suspect you’ll really enjoy the book.

Overall, there’s a lot of fun stuff going on here. And the audience is obviously out there, judging by how well the books have been doing. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’m the right audience for this one.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 7th, 2013 03:12 pm (UTC)
Hrm. Think I may wait for the sequel, "Stalked by an Alien."
Jan. 7th, 2013 06:30 pm (UTC)
I've enjoyed this series all along. At first, I was pretty much thrown off by what I saw as "Alien sexually harasses woman until she falls in love with him" but the series gets better. The possessive/jealous streak of Jeff continues to play a part in the storylines, but Kitty seems to provide a perfect foil for him. After meeting the author at World Fantasy a few years back, I decided to give the books another shot, and I'm glad I did.

Frankly, the only way these books make sense is if you don't take them seriously. They're bat-freaking-shit off-the-wall most of the time... somewhere between wacky and zany. I'm not saying that I entirely agree with the harassment/aggressiveness/jealousy/possessiveness issues, because it's not my thing either, but when everything plays out, these are much closer to romantic science fiction comedies, and if you allow a certain leeway for the sake of comedy... (I'd be a lot more worried if Kitty wasn't written as the awesome queen of awesome that she is, totally capable of handling herself.)

Yeah. I know. Awkward. But a fun series. And fluff, like you said.
Jan. 8th, 2013 07:44 pm (UTC)
I love Gini's writing, and she's a fun person to know, but I agree about your dominance & aggression points. In fact, I've actually had to put down quite a few books recently because of the fact that the male love interest emotionally abuses the female protagonist and she still jumps into bed with him.

The trend bothers me, a lot. I'm not prudish about the sex. I'm prudish about rewarding that kind of behavior because "the woman just can't resist that much dangerous hotness."
Jan. 11th, 2013 09:28 am (UTC)
Just wanted to say I appreciate that while this stuff creeps you out, you never fall into slamming people who do like aggressively dominating fantasy figures or assuming that desire for that in a fluffy novel is the same as being brainwashed by THE MAN into wanting it in real life.
Jan. 14th, 2013 01:05 am (UTC)
Thanks. It's a weird area for me. I know there are people who can read and appreciate the dominance fantasy with crystal clear understanding that this sort of behavior in real life would be a serious problem. But I also see it so often that it comes off less as a particular fantasy and more as a kind of prototypical model for how men are expected to behave, romantically. I do think it can normalize abusive behaviors, if that makes sense, and while seeing it in a fluffy novel isn't going to brainwash anyone, seeing it reinforced so often can be more problematic.

I don't think nobody should ever be allowed to write that kind of scene, or anything like that. I guess I just wish it wasn't so...dominant? Or that contextually, the stories showed more awareness of what they were and weren't presenting?

I'm having a hard time sorting this all out in the comments, so again, I hope this makes sense.
Jan. 14th, 2013 03:24 am (UTC)
Definitely - I really wish it wasn't so dominant. Catering to certain fantasies is fine, but I think it's telling that people who want a dominant woman in their heterosexual romances very rarely get their fantasies fulfilled in fluffy fiction.

Still, I do think that for instance a lot of the feminist criticisms of Twilight sometimes slipped into 'these silly women with their silly girl books for girls, they don't know it's bad for them. They will confuse fantasy with reality and get into terrible relationships, stupid girly girls.' And honestly I'd hoped we'd moved past this Northanger Abbey bollocks.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 11:30 pm (UTC)
I wonder if female authors write about men like that because the men in their books are safe. Sure, they have this bad boy vibe, but they're safe. Those men in their books are under control. It's also, in some ways, consensual. If the author doesn't like his behaviour, there's a handy delete button nearby.
Also, the author knows the outcome. (Theoretically.) The woman is going to fall in love with him in the end, so if he jumps the gun, well, she was going to love him anyways. It could be a case of an author projecting knowledge onto a character who has no business knowing that. The problem is that the man might be limited to forcible kissing and such in a book, but in real life, there's no such barriers or easy control methods.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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