Tour’s Books Blog

October 29, 2009

Book Review: Dark Abyss by Kaitlyn O’Connor

Kaitlyn O’Connor is one of my favorite furturistic erotic romance writers.  Her Cyborg Nation series is funny and brings up a lot of interesting philosophical points and men just dying for sex.  For Dark Abyss, she freely borrows many of the elements in her cyborg series and blends them with catastrophic climate changes on Earth to create the near future world in which Dark Abyss is set.

  • Title: Dark Abyss
  • Author: Kaitlyn O’Connor
  • Type: Futuristic erotic romance
  • Genre: Near future after cataclysmic climate change
  • Sub-genre: Genetically altered humans
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating: NC-17 to X
  • Length: about 78,000 words – full novel
  • Where Available: ebook only at this time from New Concepts (link for convenience only)
  • FTC Disclosure: This ebook was purchased on the publisher’s website

Dark Abyss opens with an act of sabotage against the underwater territory of New Atlantis, the primary supplier of food, water, and power to now devastated US that lost much of its arable land to the rising seas when the polar ice caps melted.  The men who agreed to start the underwater cities were genetically altered so they could live and breath underwater, even though the cities are domed and filled with air so the machinery can function for things like the desalinization plant, and plants can grow in the greenhouses.  These genetically altered people are called ‘mutants’ by those who live on the surface.  They in turn call the surface dwellers ‘air breathers’.

As with her Cyborg series, Ms O’Connor imagines this underwater world is disproportionately male, leading to plural or ‘pod’ marriages between one woman and multiple men.  This is so the men can work together to protect their woman from other males who might try and steal her and to give more men a chance at siring children.  That idea of a disproportionate distribution of the sexes is a common one in futuristic books, not just Ms O’Connor.

Simon is High Guardian of the territory and a third generation Atlantean.  The three other men in his pod are all under his command and, with one exception, born ‘mutants’.  The youngest, Joshua, came there as a child and was ‘changed’.  The story opens as a bomb blast rips through the heart of New Atlantis, threatening the entire city.  Simon bare escapes getting killed himself and is furious about the carnage the bomb created, indiscriminately killing tourists, potential colonists, workers and Guardians – and wreaking havoc on the critical dome and the desalinization plant.  Calling Code Red, what remains of the Guardians on shift begin stabilizing the structure and aiding the injured – and striving to get everything secured before the blood in the water draws too many sharks.  Simon knows this is the work of an extreme radical group Humans for Humanity who hate the ‘mutants’.

Fellow Guardians and pod mates, Ian, Caleb, and Joshua end up leading the investigation that both the mayor and governor would rather have plausible deniability over.  One camera that wasn’t destroyed leads them to an inside job by a suicide bomber.  The scenario is quite believable.

On the surface, where homes now float over the salt water marshes that were once dry land, Dr Anna Blake is thrilled to discover her latest ‘franken-veggie’ – a genetically engineered food that can grow in the salty soil and has great nutritional value, taste like  bananas and fish with way too much salt!  Her assistant, Paul, asks her to come with him to a group function for Humans for Humanity and she envisions some kind of social gathering when she finally agrees.  He is kind of cute and it’s been a LONG time since she had a date.  When they arrive, its at a well protected mansion with more food than she’d seen in a long time – and a kind of creepy host, Miles Cavendish.  When he gets her off alone, Anna was expecting him to make a pass, but instead, he tells her he’s her father – and the mysterious ‘patron’ who paid her way through college and funded her research.  Anna is shocked.  She’s written papers on the danger of genetically altering humans, only because she believes the long term risks haven’t been sufficiently evaluated, and genetically engineering foods is both sfaer and more practical in the long run.  She does not hate anyone, but this man who claims to be her father obviously does.

Days later Anna is still trying to process all she learned that night when, sleepless yet again she enters her kitchen to find a strange man there and suddenly, she’s kidnapped and taken to New Atlantis.  Her terror of heights is equal to her fear of depths and being underwater is terrifying for her.  I doesn’t help that the leader of this group is at least a foot taller than she is and obviously a mutant – one with a truly exceptional ass.

Anna learns the truth about her father and slowly comes to realize she never really thought about the risk the New Atlantaens lived with.  SHe also grows to really like the 4 men holding her for questioning.  In fact, she isn’t quite thrilled about returning to her house.  She wants so badly to ask for protection from her father, but doubts these men will sympathetic.  When Caleb and Joshua return her to her house, and Caleb ends up in her bed giving Anna the best sex of her rather sheltered life.  Then he and Joshua slip away leaving her with her franken-veggies and a longing for the four men who made her feel safe.

Knowing now what her father is, Anna has time to think through his possible plans.  She loses herself in work for a few days, grateful for knowing two of the men are watching over her.  She decides to take them some dinner and instead of finding Caleb and Joshua, she finds the forbidding Simon and Ian.  Simon sees through her flimsy story to the truth, which makes her angry and embarrassed.  Little does she know that an ‘air-breather’ took Simon for all his money and left him alone, leaving him rather bitter and distrustful of women.  He must also confront the fact that in many ways the ‘mutants’ are as bigoted and intolerant as the ‘air-breathers’ about some things.  An interesting moral dilemma that seems to reflect many of our current social issues.

Next night, Anna has a brainstorm about her salty, nutritious franken-veggie.  Why try and mask the fish flavor?  Make it a fish/meat substitute and work with it.  She also discovers the reason her next crop wouldn’t grow is because these amazing plants remove the salt from the soil, reclaiming it and making it suitable for traditional crops.  The breakthrough has the potential to cure the problem with world hunger, or at least go a long way to alleviate it – and there are some damn good reasons why her father would rather the world not know just yet.  Knowing she’s being watched and her computer is likely as bugged as her house, she suddenly sees where her father’s twisted plan is likely to lead.  She starts to take her journal and other data to the watching Guardians when Paul comes back and kidnaps her.  She struggles whit him and keeps him from killing the Guardians by mowing down their sub even as her house and greenhouse explode behind her.

Now it’s a race for the Guardians to rescue Anna from her father, arrest Miles Cavendish and find enough evidence to make charges stick – kidnapping and murder – and to hold him accountable for the people who died in the terrorist attack on the city.  And the men have to do this while keeping Anna in protective custody at their home without being seduced – or seducing her and compromising her testimony and keeping all the other men interested in her at a distance.  Simon has to finally come to terms with the damage the woman who deserted him did to him and his ability to form a relationship – and accept that he too cares deeply for Anna.

The play of personalities among the 4 men is less lighthearted than much of the Cyborg series, but the two stories share a lot of common ground.  There is more suspense and less sex, but like all of Ms O’Connor’s work, this book is worth a read on several levels.  I liked the logic in the motivation for Miles Cavendish, but felt he needed a more prominent role.  Caught between erotic futuristic and true si-fi, this book needed either more sex for the first or more villain for the latter.  Also, like other O’Connor books, the relationship isn’t a ménage, it’s a polyandrous romance, so fans of ménage should be aware of that, though it’s apparent that Anna isn’t adverse to trying out ménage couplings.  Given the ending, I’m assuming this might become a series.  It has a lot of potential given the conflicts she’s established.  I liked it.  In many ways Deep Abyss reminded me of Abiogenesis, the first book of the Cyborg series that was also more straight si-fi that erotic si-fi.  A recommended read – despite several annoying instances of awful NCP editing!

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