I'm not a big fan of the use of soul mates, but the story was well-written and because the romance was secondary it didn't bother me much. I did have a couple other minor problems along with this though. First of all, there were some things in here I found a bit inappropriate for a representative of Alien Affairs to do. Kiera is supposed to be their best and yet I had the feeling that if an anthropologist read this book, they'd be disagreeing with some of her actions. For example, I was surprised when I read how Kiera showed the Buri how to use shampoo. Was it really necessary for her to get naked and then soap the leader in front of the tribe? OK it linked into the plot, but this is one of the scenes I found hard to swallow. Another issue I had was that a lot of things were too idealized. When we're first introduced to Kiera who is not only a blonde bombshell but even more enhanced than the usual GEPs. Then we're introduced to the Buri who have surprisingly almost the same super-human qualities as our main character, who live in a planet which itself is unique and full of mostly friendly, ideal flora and fauna. Kiera is extremely lucky throughout the book with the way things went for her. It was a bit too easy.
Despite those issues, there were a lot of interesting ideas in here. I enjoyed all the devices Kiera used in her ship for food and for temporary shelter, what she used to communicate, her knowlege of Galactic Federation law, her weapons and fighting, and all the details that descibed her techologically advanced life. A life which contrasted nicely with what she met in the new planet - the jungle, the strange creatures, the Buri costumes and their food preparation - it was all very well thought out and keep me turning the pages with curiosity.
I liked this read . . . but I feel like there was potential for so much more. First of all this was a plotty read. In other words the author focused more on plot and explanations of her world than her characterization. In fact this novel reminded me quite a bit of Jean Johnson's Son's of Destiny series in that she succumbs to over-explaining the minutia of the plot (though never as grievously as Johnson) rather than let it unfold in a more palatable manner. At times it got a little overbearing, especially since the plot seemed to drag quite a bit as the main character, Kiera, seemed to do no more than run around all over the planet and talk to people. If conversations are what primarily drive your plot then you better have outstanding characterization to keep the reader interested. Unfortunately, Allred, chose to use first person for the entire story. In my opinion, if you are going to use first person then you had better be a fantastic writer, because too often the author tells too much without ever showing us through the actions of the character. In other words, the character can tell us that she's a tough cookie with a warm gooey inside, or her actions can clue the reader into that little gem without having the constant reminder handed to us in a sterile manner.
As another reviewer has pointed out, there was very little sense of true danger in this novel which also caused the story to drag. Our heroine is already the most powerful genetically modified human ever with a ship that is practically omnipotent and sentient, and her job to make contact with and help a new species is accomplished too easily. The bad guys are so obvious about being up to no good and our heroine is able to so quickly make allies in the enemy camp that I was almost hoping one of them would be a traitor just to add some sense of intrigue.
Also, as another reviewer pointed out, the use of the soul mates concept didn't actually enhance the romance portion of the story. I'm still not blown away by their love for each other. It was all too sterile and easy. In fact I found Kiera's relationships with everyone else much more interesting, including the one she had with her ship. Oh, and there is also a prodigious use of fade aways every time our heroes start to get hot and heavy. Normally this wouldn't bother me but I was searching for something to help me understand their supposedly passionate love for each other. I wanted either more intimacy or for it to not be mentioned so much so I could focus on the plot.
But I do give Allred mad props for actually having a plot. I liked her little bits of science, the fact that the Buri are not as simple as they appear, and that animals play a very positive, essential, and cute role. The best part of this story is the dragon birds which, for me, brought up positive associations with Anne McCaffrey's miniature dragons in her Dragon Riders of Pern series.
I mostly recommend this book for people who like light science fiction. The romance is okay and has its moments but it is not nearly strong enough for me to put this in the romance category.
I loved this book! Its a keeper!
I enjoyed Close Encounters - a great SciFi Romance with a GEP (genetically engineered person) Alien Affairs agent, her ship with artificial intelligence, her pet rock cat, a fabulously sexy hero from a dying race, evil doers trying to take over the planet and lots of great action. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, Close Contact.