Parallel Heat by Deidre Knight
(Signet Eclipse, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-451-21965-1
**
If youíd rather have outlandish plotlines and exuberant side effects than a good story and great dialogue, you might want to take a glance at Parallel Heat. It really wasnít for me. Given the choice between convincing world-building and a solid script, Iíd rather have the latter any day. Both are lacking in the second volume of Deirdre Knightís series about extraterrestrials fighting to protect the human species.

Thea Haven was once engaged to the exiled king of the Refarians, an alien race now established on earth and committed to protecting humanity from the invasion of the parasitic Antousians (yes, that would be yet another species). Instead, following a sequence of events narrated in the first book, the king married some human. Which makes Thea a very dissatisfied virgin warrior. On the prowl in human bars for some way to relieve her frustration, she meets Marco McKinley.

Marco claims to be a Madjin, or part of an elite Refarian group dedicated to protecting the king and the royal family (if you donít get this, donít worry; the novel repeats so many times that by the time you finish the first third you will be reciting it by heart). Thea isnít sure whether to believe him or not, but she feels there is something between them. Itís not just the overriding magnetic attraction; they also seem to have met in some alternate universe or timeline where their bonds lead to betrayal. Staying on course is just a tad more serious than it would be for most couples (and if you donít get that, Marco will be glad to explain it again).

All this might be interesting if Thea and Marco actually had personalities and a real relationship. Unfortunately, there really isnít much more to them than mutual fascination and some hocus-pocus about empathy and true essences. Whatís more, Marco has all kinds of reasons why they shouldnít get together. Which means we are locked into a loop that is replayed over and over and over again. Thea and Marco give into their attraction and start feeling each other up. Then Marco realizes he really shouldnít be doing this, and pushes her away. A couple of scenes later, theyíre at it again.

After several such incidents, Thea says, ďIím onto your game, Marco. Youíre all about, ĎCome close, Iíll push you away.íĒ She got that part right. I wish she would get the rest too and just walk away.

When the novel manages to break-away from Marcoís game, it is dedicated to resolving issues from the previous novel and to setting things up for the next one. In fact, I suspect that much of the mystery surrounding Marcoís motivations and the alternate timelines, not to mention the Refariansí presence on earth, might have been clearer had I begun at the beginning of the series. Still, Iím not sure my lack of interest can be chalked up to my irresponsible reading habits. While I admit it can be difficult to make sense of a story if you donít start where you are supposed to, this isnít the first time Iíve jumped in at the middle. I havenít always been so disappointed. A good novelist knows how to help the reader make sense of things without giving everything away. Knight fails miserably. Readers of Parallel Attraction might disagree and want to find out what happened. But after forcing myself to finish this book, I have no interest in uncovering the early history of the Refarians and in discovering how their future struggles will fare.

--Mary Benn


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