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The Burn Zone
By James K. Decker
Roc, $7.99, 373pp
Release Date: February 5, 2013

This is a debut novel for James Decker but that’s only a pseudonym for James Knapp who has quite a few books under his belt. The title refers to an impending catastrophe that will claim millions of lives – both human and not. Sam Shao is a young woman living in an Asian city where an alien ship resides. The ship crash-landed many years earlier forcing the humans into a co-dependent relationship with the needy aliens who require most of the available food sources but repay with advanced technology. One of the things the aliens need most is human surrogate parents. Sam is one of the human surrogate parents. Since she is unable to bear a child herself, she satisfies her longing by adopting alien babies to raise. The pay isn’t bad, either.

Her own adoptive father is a soldier and finds himself in an untenable situation – follow orders or do the right thing. He chooses the right thing and finds himself on the run from both his own government and an apparent rogue alien. He’s taken from Sam and she finds herself on the run, as well. She finds friends willing to help and succor her but it seems that the responsibility for learning the truth about the aliens is all on her shoulders. One of her saviors is an alien who breaks all the truths that Sam thought she knew about the aliens that she’s helped raise. The final truth was stranger than anything I could’ve imagined and it was a lovely surprise at the end.

The characters were very interesting and the plot sufficiently intriguing without confusing this reader. There was a great deal of ‘scientific’ exposition that I could’ve done without; but overall, I was pleased with this story. ~~ Catherine Book

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