Scavenger Hunt by Sarah Madison at Dreamspinner Press
Disclaimer: Sarah and I are friends, and I have read lots of her work in earlier versions, including her awesome book Unspeakable Words; so clearly I’m biased, and I make no apologies for it. Honestly, if her writing sucked, I just wouldn’t talk about it. But she’s a very good writer, and her stories deserve to be read! Onwards review!
The short unspoilery recap: short, fun read with amusing characters and solid world building that harks back to the best of kind of entertaining science fiction, with a dash of romance. Madison’s strength lies in great characterizations, and that is fully in evidence here!
The full story is about space scavenger Jeff and his merry crew trying to eek out a living by doing paid jobs and a little bit of junk-scavenging from time to time. They lead a rough hand-to-mouth existence, and in the great tradition of all space scoundrels, make a lot of snark out of it. Madison writes snark and all dialog really well, so it is always a delight to read scenes where Jeff and his crew trade ripostes.
Their somewhat precarious travel plans are interrupted by discovery of floating derelict, a ship and its crew and passengers attacked by vicious space pirates. Deciding they can possibly scavenge a bit of fuel or food from the dead ship, Jeff leads his team over only to discover a single survivor of the attack…or, actually, two: the mysterious Peter and his not-so-mysterious cat.
The romance between Jeff and Peter is fun to watch, just because it is so unlikely. But Jeff is lonely and Peter is clearly trying to start his life over, and somewhere in the midst of that is the genuine attraction they feel for each other.
Madison captures the feel of such classics as Star Wars, Stargate and Serenity with a deft touch, creating characters who are familiar types but still unique individuals. This is the “Saturday afternoon matinee” of short story romances, delightful and enjoyable and memorable. Unlike the matinee shows of my youth, however, Madison also serves up some hot, steamy sexy romance between Jeff and Peter that keeps the tension levels high!
My only regret about this story is that there probably isn’t a sequel in the works. We are given enough of Jeff’s background to know what he is about, but even at the end of the story Peter is still an enigma, a man who is very much “on the run” without needing to be, it seems. There is more to his story and I’d love to see it!