Pets in Space is a collection of science fiction romance short stories which feature, you guessed it, pets in space. The best part of short story collections is the fact that you get introduced to numerous authors in one book. It is a great way to see if you enjoy the author’s writing and may lead to reading other works by that author. The romantic pairings are well written in this collection and are complemented by the inclusion of their furry friends. As the introduction claims, every alien needs a pet.
A Mate for Matrix by S.E. Smith
A Mate for Matrix introduces us to sexy alien cyborg Matrix Roma and Jana Dixon, an endearing veterinarian assistant with a heart of gold. While Matrix is on planet Earth on a mission for the Cyborg Protection Unit, his lost cyborg wolf hybrid K-9 is hit by a truck and taken in by Jana. K-9 is not the first animal she has given a home. She also has three kittens named Butter, Honeybun and Biscuit. Will Matrix be able to find them in time and save them from his dangerous mission?
I thoroughly enjoyed this short story by S.E. Smith. It was a good story to lead with considering it could appeal to both cat and dog lovers. The passion between Matrix and Jana simmers off the page and their pets add humorous and protective layers to the story. At the end of the short story, S.E. Smith left an author’s note indicating this is a prequel and there will be more books to the Zion Warriors series. I look forward to reading more in this series by this talented sci-fi romance author.
Stray by Susan Grant
Stray by Susan Grant begins with a unique prologue written from a dog’s point of view. The dog turns out to be Bang-Bang, a starving street dog rescued by Interplanetary Marine Lt. Lukas Frank. Bang-Bang repays his savior by pulling him over to meet starpilot Capt. Carlynn Riga. The couple have a love-at-first-sight type of whirlwind romance; that is, until Carlynn goes missing.
There is no doubt that Susan Grant can weave an intriguing love story with tangible characters but her most notable strength is the way she addresses post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in her short story. She handles the sensitive topic in a way which makes her characters honest, raw and above all, real. Bang-Bang is an adorable addition to the story. His protective, playful and loyal nature truly make him man’s best friend.
Spark of Attraction by Cara Bristol
Captain Dante Stone is the cyborg captain on the spaceship the Crimson Hawk. He is considered as emotionally cold as his last name implies, until he comes face-to-face with the traumatized colonists they rescued from an alien attack on Verde Omega. One refugee in particular named Miranda Lowell, and her robot dog Sparky, seem to invade his thoughts often. He tries to keep a professional distance until mysterious occurrences on the ship slowly bring them together.
I enjoyed the strong and silent hero and the intelligent and resilient heroine in this story. It was also interesting to see the use of a robotic pet, which I could imagine being common in the futuristic setting of Spark of Attraction. Cara Bristol did a superb job of weaving in an element of mystery in this science fiction romance short story. The romance, characters, plot and world building were well done, considering the author had to do it in seven chapters. I would be interested in reading more of Cara Bristol’s cyborg series.
Star Cruise: Stowaway by Veronica Scott
Owen Embersson is the Cargo Master on the space cruise ship Nebula Zephyr and the caretaker of the ship’s two pets named Midorri and Moby. When Midorri and Mody discover a stowaway and Owen helps to save her life, it changes his life in ways he never thought possible. Be prepared for a science fiction romance filled with a mix of magic and danger.
The stowaway, Tyrelle, is the character which intrigued me the most. She is a supernatural alien described as a beauty with green skin and hair. The dialogue for Tyrelle was written well, showing she knows the language of the ship but appears to speak it with an accent. She has a gentle and healing nature which does not seen to be marred by her turbulent past. She is the perfect distraction for lonely workaholic Owen. Star Cruise: Stowaway was a pleasurable read with a well built world and characters which draw you in from page one. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Scott.
The Real Dragon by Pauline Baird Jones
The Real Dragon features Emma Standish and her talking bearded dragon named Peddrenth. The dragon went missing on the day her mother died and returns on the day her dad announces he is getting remarried. Add in an alien boyfriend that she doesn’t seem to remember and it all gets quite complicated.
In a collection of stories, it is bound to happen. There is going to at least one story that does not tickle your fancy. Unfortunately, The Real Dragon was that story for me. It was difficult for me to get beyond the point when Emma was talking with someone from her past. They had a long conversation that hashed out the details of their history and the day Emma lost her mother and it slowed the pace of the story. There are others who may read this collection and say this one is their favorite one. Everyone’s preferences are unique and I would recommend still giving this one a shot when you read the short story collection.
Spike by Alex Glynn Later
Spike by Alex Glynn Later is the story of Roboticist Ten Jaxdown and mission designer Anastasia Steed. Ten is designing investigative robots for a rescue mission planned by Anastasia and the two grow close while working together on the mission. When faced with sabotage, will they be able to save the mission and their budding relationship?
There were parts of this short story by Alex Glynn Later that I did enjoy, but there were other parts that were too difficult to get past. First off, for those readers (like me) who are not technical or engineer minded, the descriptions of the robot building may be hard to follow. Secondly, there is a well planned build up of the relationship between Ten and Anastasia, until it seems to fall flat when Anastasia keeps her distance the night before the mission.
Anastasia tells her friend she won’t have sex with anyone before marriage because she is “Old Catholic”, referring to a religion left behind on Earth. I respect her choice but there is no harm in a little cuddling or kissing before the mission. It was a letdown for me and I chose to move on to the next short story. As I mentioned with The Real Dragon, there will be readers who may find this is their favorite one of the collection. Everyone’s tastes vary and it would be worth it to give this short story a chance before deciding whether or not it is your cup of tea.
StarDog by Laurie A. Green
Snakes on a spaceship are a curse turned into a blessing when they bring Adini and Katrina, a StarDog, into Navigator Taro Shall’s life. Laurie A. Green’s short story includes corrupt governments, underground rebels, family drama, a pet who is as intelligent as she is adorable and of course, plenty of romance.
StarDog was strong enough to draw me back in after not being sold by the prior two short stories. Thank you Ms. Green! It was interesting to see a close look at a spaceport, a concept that is mentioned in many science fiction romance novels but is not always fleshed out. The hesitation by the characters was realistic given their past experiences but it did not slow the pace of the story. It kept me hooked and reading, wanting to know what would happen to Adini and Taro, or even Katrina.
Space Ranger by Lea Kirk
Space Ranger by Lea Kirk is the story of alien Graig Roble, human Simone Campbell and their dog Ranger. Graig and Simone develop a relationship while Graig is stationed on Earth to assist the humans after an attack by another alien species. Unfortunately they are separated when Graig is drawn back to the Atlantis by his job as a security commander for the Guardian Fleet. Will he realize his prior life and duties no longer hold any appeal without Simone before it is too late?
Based on Lea Kirk’s choice of plot and characters for Space Ranger, she understands the importance of short stories as a way to draw in new readers. She can consider that mission complete. As soon as I finished reading her short story in Pets in Space, I purchased her book Prophecy (Book 1 in her Prophecy series). Ms. Kirk provided enough of a glimpse of the cherished characters featured in her Prophecy series to make me, and hopefully other readers, want to read more about them.
Escape Run by Carysa Locke
Teegan is a part of the Talented, a species created for their valuable powers and gifts. She is a hunter who can track down others, along with her gifted pet fox named Ember. When Cole comes to Teegan for help hunting down someone from their past, can they both keep their feelings out of the mission?
It is easy to see why they put Carysa Locke’s short story Escape Run at this spot in the lineup; they were saving the best for last. Carysa Locke, the pen name for a friend writing duo, is the reason I chose to read Pets in Space. I have read and enjoyed this author’s other books. I highly recommend the Telepathic Space Pirates series, which includes Pirate Bound (a prequel, book #0.5), Pirate Nemesis (book #1) and Pirate Consort (book #2) which is expected to be released in December 2016.
I hope my review was helpful. I highly recommend Pets in Space, a short story collection which includes nine talented authors. Science fiction romance stories are always enjoyable but when you add loyal pets in the mix, it takes the plots to a whole new level. Enjoy!
*I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reading copy if this book.
I am thankful for the opportunity I had to publish book reviews on Examiner.com for six years. Unfortunately the company decided to discontinue their news site but I have decided to post my book reviews here. Enjoy!