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    Review of THE ULTIMATUM by Susan Kearney (see her website)

    Tor Romance, February 2006

    Scientist Alara Calladar lives to research the unique problem women fromher planet, Endekia suffer. They die without sex. Worse, once they bond with a man, they cannot even get the revitalization they need from other men. Knowing this, Endekian men treat their women cruely. Still, hate it though she does, Alara is as subject to the forces of biology as any Endekian woman. And when sexy Rystani warriro Xander of Mystique walks into her lab, her hormones demand that she mate with him--or die.

    With a deadly virus spreading through the galaxy, Xander knows there's little time to head off a tragedy beyond anything the universe has experienced. The virus attacks not only humanoid life, but every form of life--and it's spreading quickly. He hopes that Alara's unique skill, the ability to see DNA with her naked eyes, might be the extra he'll need in his hunt to find the "perceptive ones" who first seeded the galaxy with life and who seem to have vanished but who, if rumors can be believed, still live on one remote planet. Since the Endekians are responsible for his people losing their planet, an Endekian woman would be his last choice. Still, if sex is necessary to keep her alive, he's certainly willing to oblige.

    For the perceptive ones, humanoid life is a form of game--but a game with high stakes indeed. Their enemies threaten to wipe out their great accomplishment, but the perceptive ones can only do so much--humanoids much achieve a higher level of evolution--and there is little that the perceptive ones can do.

    Author Susan Kearney (see more reviews of novels by Kearney) continues in her efforts to combine science fiction and romance for the Tor Romance line. Following on her previous novels in this series, THE ULTIMATUM explains more about why the galaxy is how it is, how alien life-forms are able to breed so easily, and why the apparently senseless war between Endekians and Rystanis took place.

    THE ULTIMATUM certainly combines solid SF world-building as well as the traditional elements of a romance novel. But Kearney is not quite the writer to merge the two--at least not in this story. Following a clunky opening where the reader gets an information dump, Alara and Xander set off to explore the universe. Manipulation of events by the perceptive ones weakens these two as protagonists. Kearney does better when it comes to the sexual side of her story--with spankings and dominance games, as well as alien but not-too-alien names for body parts to intrigue readers.

    Kearney fans are certain to enjoy THE ULTIMATUM. For those who are looking for the real integration of romance and SF, though, this story just doesn't quite fill the need.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 5/02/06

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