Eyes Of Love

Strangers in the Night

Out of the Blue by Katherine Deauxville
(Lovespell, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-505-52469-4
Out of the Blue immediately gets in your face and proclaims itself a wacky, screwball sci-fi romantic comedy. Unfortunately, its zaniness comes at the expense of well-developed characters and a cohesive plot. This sloppy satire of X-Files, Men in Black and All of Me has a few humorous moments, but ultimately it collapses under the weight of its own chaos.

When a deep voice emerges from her own body complaining of mix-ups in the transport system, Maryellen Caswell isn’t sure if she’s dreaming or just going nuts. But the commercial artist is very much awake and sane. She is the unwitting host body for one Ur Targon, sub-commander from an alien planet far, far away, and he’s royally pissed. Someone has sabotaged him, sending him to the backwater planet he refers to as Styrex Three. As Maryellen’s alien temporarily removes himself from her body, he is revealed to be a glowing humanoid figure with golden flowing hair and handsome features much like those of Brad Pitt. Still partially convinced that the stress from her work as an independent commercial artist has driven her crazy, Maryellen makes a frantic phone call to her wealthy sister, Felicia, who suggests that Maryellen immediately visit a well-known psychiatrist.

Unfortunately, the psychiatrist is more interested in seeing evidence of Maryellen’s alien hallucinations than curing them, and Maryellen’s encounter with him starts a chain reaction of events that eventually culminate with her and Targon trying to evade both the FBI and a group of UFO-obsessed fanatics. Targon claims he must save the U.S. government from treasonous saboteurs, but first he must locate a recently deceased body to adopt as his new host. After all, he can only remain in his incandescent stage for short periods of time, and Maryellen refuses to keep the annoying alien inside of her body any longer than she has to - especially when he is revealed to be a mind-reader. Oops, now he knows that Maryellen is wondering if human/alien sex would really be out of this world.

From the moment Maryellen opens her eyes on page one to the novel’s conclusion, the plot operates at high speed, full volume. Constant misadventures and crises create a frantic pace but not a page-turner. Some of the outrageous action is funny - Maryellen weaving down the street with a drunken Targon controlling her actions is nicely reminiscent of Steve Martin with Lily Tomlin’s soul inside his body in All of Me, and the substance that turns out to be Targon’s main restorative proves that it’s not just for breakfast anymore. But too much of the humor is broadly obvious, such as a subplot involving an FBI agent named “Wolf Madder.”

The author’s sloppiness doesn’t help. A little bit of research would have revealed that anti-depressants, like Prozac, take weeks to have an effect on a person. So when Felicia gives Maryellen a pill similar to Prozac, it wouldn’t immediately relax her; Xanax would have been more accurate. And contrary to Maryellen’s belief, hospital social workers do more than “just fill out paperwork,” so it wouldn’t be a piece of cake to impersonate one (I’ll admit to a little over-reaction to that error on behalf of my fellow social workers).

Ultimately, the book suffers from an acute lack of character development. Targon the alien is allegedly from a planet with a far more advanced civilization than ours, but we never learn anything specific or unique about his world. He’s a generic gorgeous and brilliant alien (and conveniently humanoid as well). He and Maryellen fall in love because…well, because they’re running around together in a romance novel, as far as I can tell. She’s beautiful and resourceful, he’s handsome and strong-minded, so it must be love.

I’m aware that Katherine Deauxville is not aiming for true science fiction here; if she were, the spaceship on the front cover wouldn’t look so cartoonish. This is romance, after all, not Ray Bradbury. But if she’s not going to fill in the sci-fi details, she owes it to her readers to create a well-written love story. Out of the Blue does have a certain goofy charm, but it contains too many weaknesses to fit that description.

--Susan Scribner

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