I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Siren's Call by Jayne Castle (aka Jayne Ann Krentz)

Jayne Castle is the name Krentz uses for her books that take place in the future, when a group of humans left earth and landed on the planet Harmony and set up a base there.  But the curtain between the planet and earth would close and these colonist would be stuck with each other, for better or worse.  Aliens had once lived on this planet long ago and left it.  They are believed to have lived underground in the catacombs that are made of some kind of green mineral.  Over the years, the humans began to develop psi abilities which allowed them to use amber to "rez up" things such as cars, microwaves, cell phones, locks, etc... Some would develop particularly strong psi talents, such as tuning amber (it has a unique frequency and if you go into the catacombs without tuned amber you will wander around until you go mad and die), read auras, handle and create "ghosts" (electrical energy that manifests in the form of a ghost) in the catacombs, music talents, botany talents, the ability to find and handle minerals, the ability to use alien technology.  The list is pretty endless. There are also dust bunnies, mysterious creatures with an endless apatite, who come and go as they please, collect the oddest things, and form attachments with humans. They have the loyalty of a dog who always knows when you need him and the independent streak and the insistence that you take care of his needs first of a cat. They're adorable.

The founders also insisted on what is called a Covenant Marriage.  If you have one of these, it is nearly impossible to get out of.  You can pay to get out of one, but you will be broke by the end of it. The founders believed that close connections were important if they were going to survive. And these days no one gets out of being nagged by some family member about getting a CM, even the gays.  The founders also set up what is called a Marriage of Convenience, which was basically a classy way of saying you were shacking up with someone.  It could be broken at any time, by either party.

Ella Morgan comes from a very famous musically talented family, but her talent has been kept secret.  She is a siren.  Something that is not supposed to exist.  She has resigned herself to not marrying, as from what she has read, men either fall slavishly and obsessively in love with sirens or head for the hills as fast as they can.  So far all the men she has dated seem to be the run away type.  Her talent allows her to see people's auras and so she has gone into the dreamwork business, which means that she helps adjust their auras while they dream.  When she goes into business for herself, her first client is a dust bunny.  She borrows a sled to go into the catacombs and follows the bunny to a cave where other dust bunnies are being held in cages and alien technology is lying around.  It appears that the bunnies are going to be used as test subjects. Ella uses her voice to melt the special glass cages and when she is confronted by the owner of the weapons, she is forced to use her voice in self-defense and kills him.

In walks Rafe Coppersmith who is doing a consulting job for the FBPI (and Hard Joe Harding, himself, whom those who have read her early Harmony books may remember not so fondly as the glory hound who takes all the credit) and he is really not happy to find the man dead.  It has ruined the whole sting operation he had planned.  Rafe recognizes her from a news story a while back where she stopped her friend from marrying a serial killer at the last minute and then was taken hostage by the groom who suddenly had a "stroke" of some sort and ended up in the mental hospital.  He's figured out pretty quick between that story and the melted glass that she must be a siren.  However, a group of mob men are coming to buy the alien artifacts and Rafe quickly takes over the role of seller, but when things go wrong, he grabs the artifacts and touches Ella's shoulder and a blast explodes killing all the men.  Rafe's ability is to handle minerals and alien technology.  He promises to keep her secret if she'll have coffee with him.  But she does not hear back from him.

Soon after this, Lorelei, her first client, and dust bunny companion, brings her a hunk of red crystal that is worth a lot of money and Ella is able to move her business to the best neighborhood, which is good, because in her business, people will only take you seriously if you have a fancy office to work out of.  Three months later in walks Rafe Coppersmith to ask her for a contract for her services as a music worker. The problem is, he does not look so well. Ella can tell in his aura that he has a psi fever which occurs after a burn-out, when you have overloaded your talents to the point that they might never come back, you might develop an uncontrollable new talent, or go mad.  She can quickly tell that he is in control and not about to go off his rocker, but still can't help but still feel a bit peeved that she never heard back from him. She thought she had felt a real connection between them.  Of, course he has never forgotten her and he cannot tell her that his talent is gone and he has no idea what is going on with him.

The project is on the island of Rainshadow, which has a very dangerous forest preserve where people are not supposed to go into (there's a fence for a reason) and now a bizarre place dubbed Wonderland where the aliens are believed to have first began their bio/psi experiments with creatures, only they seemed to have failed and put the animals in stasis and their habitat was killed off.  Well, now its a land of crystal and quartz and blue energy and the animals have been awoken and they resemble dinosaurs--who now do not have anything to eat and are making their way out of Wonderland and killing people.  Coppersmith Mining wants to explore the minerals but they need to be protected from the dinosaurs.  The dinosaurs use singing to communicate and to put the put their prey into a trance.  Rafe's idea is that Ella will be able to tune their frequency to amber and provide it to the scientist to use as a repellent to the dinosaurs.

Rafe's job is to get her out of Chrystal City and to Rainshadow Island and into Coppersmith Security hands.  Ella, however, has two conditions. One is that she has to go to an important academic dinner that night that will be important to her career and two that she needs to be back by a certain date because a friend is having a covenant wedding in which she is once again the bridesmaid (it seems to be her permanent role).  Rafe explains that the reason she needs security is that there is  an organization called Do Not Disturb that believes in leaving all alien things alone.  They're a bit of a low rent wack job group, but you never know.

After an interesting dinner, they leave only to be snared in what appears to be a kidnapping attempt.  With Ella's ability to melt glass, they escape the limo and hide out in an abandoned building when two more men arrive with an alien bell whose ringing does not affect Ella, but begins to make Rafe want to follow the sound.  When he holds on to Ella's hand while she sings, however, the sound is dimmed and he is able to use his stun gun to knock the two men out. He searches the men and takes all the technology they have on hand and in the process notices that they both have tornado tattoos.  He turns the matter over to the FBPI and he and Ella head out of town.

Rafe's psi burn is causing him to hallucinate again and he is beyond tired, since every time he tries to sleep he doesn't get very far before he has what he calls "waking nightmares".  Ella insists on driving and just like Rafe said, after twenty minutes the nightmare seemed to begin and he started saying a few words including "ghost city" and "sing for me siren". So she began to sing and patched up his aura a bit and he went into a peaceful sleep and stayed there for the next three hours until they got to the airstrip. Rafe cannot believe what has happened; he can finally sleep again. Ella is worried though.  Ghost City is a legendary place where treasure supposedly lies and the few people who are said to have found it have come back mad.  Eventually Rafe will tell her that he was sent by his father on this expedition right after meeting her and he ended up in a psi storm, which will basically kill you.  To escape, he dove into a crystal pool.  In his dreams he sees a place, but he does not believe it is real.  He grabs a piece of grey mineral and with that is able to walk right through the storm and back to the team. Ella tells him he is coming into a new power and that the hallucinations are really visions that are a part of his new talent somehow.

Someone on the island takes shots at Ella's window on her first night and a body is discovered.  He is a member of DND.  But there are others on the island and something larger may be going on.  Coppersmith may be compromised.  It appears there are people working for them who are really in the employ of others.

Rafe finally takes Ella into Wonderland with a team to find a dinosaur and see what she can do.  Quickly she is able to find the harmonic of their song and tune it to the amber.  It is given to the scientists who believe that they might even be able to hunt them now.  Its over and now Ella can go, but Rafe realizes he's not ready for her to go. But Ella has a covenant wedding to go to and of course Rafe will follow her.  Along the way he will have to figure out how to use his new talent, even if he does think it is stupid and useless. 

Ella keeps insisting that men just don't want to make a commitment to someone like her, but as you will realize, she does an awful lot of pushing away.  Rafe, meanwhile, can be the typical man at times: I've lost my talent (manhood) I am not a real man and not worthy of someone like Ella.  But you know they are made for each other if for the only fact that he can listen to her sing and not be affected by it.  His talent makes him immune in some ways.   The twist at the end (there always is one) was unexpected for me. I went one way, the book went another, so I was pleasantly surprised.  I really enjoyed this book. The banter between the two was sharp and witty and the woman rescued herself for a change.  Ella can and does take care of herself, but as the song goes "she gets by with a little help from her friends".  This is a wonderful addition to the Harmony series, which you do not need to read in order, by the way. 

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