Tag: Wen Spencer

Alien Taste

AlienTaste_All.jpgALIEN TASTE

Wen Spencer

ALIEN TASTE is the first book in the UKIAH OREGON series. I liked it very much. Having already read the fourth book in the series, DOG WARRIOR, I already knew many of the characters and concepts, but I feel the novel did a great job at easing the reader into the craziness that is this series’ world. (Then again, there was also much less craziness in ALIEN TASTE than in DOG WARRIOR, so there is that…)

The characters were all well realized, but the highlight was Ukiah. I found the portrayal of Ukiah, his interactions with more normal humans, and his slow journey of understanding what was happening around him genuinely persuasive, interesting, and moving. Something I found particularly impressive was how Wen Spencer integrated his heightened senses and photographic memory into his character, using them to create behaviors that set him apart from other people, rather than (as is done in many novels) just giving him these abilities and having them be things he uses when the plot needs to move on. His tracking abilities were also an incredibly fascinating exploration of the senses beyond sight, and inspired me to pay a lot of extra attention to the sensory details in the world around me and how authors/books translate those into words. His photographic memory and the portrayal of how he uses it was also very well done, as it was rarely used merely to advance the plot, but was integrated into the character as something that he uses on a daily basis.

It’s worth saying again is just how many novel concepts there were in this series, and how well Wen Spencer introduces each of them and integrates them all with each other.

Cover Art: I like the rain. It could be worse… but I feel the picture is not a good representation of Ukiah.





I am extraordinarily tempted to summarize all of the various things that I suspected this book would be. Let me instead cut straight to the heart of the matter by surgically stating what is important: sadly, the book is not about what you would expect a book titled DOG WARRIOR would be about.

Happily, the book frequently takes much stranger turns than you would expect from a book titled DOG WARRIOR. Aliens, mysterious twin brothers, blood mice, supernatural powers, federal agencies, undercover double agents, invisible red drugs, and motorcycle gangs. It was very refreshing, despite being a lot piled on all at once. There were quite a few concepts used I have not come across, and I read a fair bit.

I am not frequently confused, but for the first half of the novel I was quite befuddled by the switching of character viewpoints, as well as the casual mention of characters, groups, events, relationships, and concepts with very little to no grounding or world-building. Then I checked the book jacket and noticed that DOG WARRIOR was book four in the UKIAH OREGON series. That explains that.

If you like being thrown into the deep end, then I recommend reading DOG WARRIOR before any of the other books in the series. It was that fun of an experience. On the other hand, I genuinely liked the story and characters, and must state that starting from the start would probably be a better approach if you are less into the “meta” aspects of writing (What is this author trying to do? What is this person’s relationship / role? How normal is this blood mice thing?! Wait, WHAT HOW HE DO THAT), and more into the “enjoying a story with a bunch of novel stuff going on.”

I will review the other three books in time, so when it comes to plot, I just want to touch on one great bit of emergent behavior that came from me reading this book before the other three. DOG WARRIOR is the finale, and starts with Ukiah Oregon’s unbeknownst-to-both-of-them twin brother, Atticus Steele, finding Ukiah tied up in the trunk of some criminals’ car. That chunk is told from Atticus’ perspective, and so I imprinted on Atticus Steele, and was suspicious of Ukiah for most of the book. But Ukiah is the protaganist of the first three books, so anyone who read the first three books would be imprinted on Ukiah, and suspicious of Atticus. I thought this was awesome, if unintentional.

In general, DOG WARRIOR does a great job of taking all the characters, groups, and concepts from the last three books, bringing in new characters (Atticus et al.) in a way that builds suspense and works well, building ominously to the climax, and having a satisfying resolution that doesn’t really leave you wanting more, because it was well ended.

DOG WARRIOR was published in 2004 by ROC, a publishing group at the Penguin Group.

Cover Art Review: . . . The writing is much better.