Two attractive people are thrown together by forces beyond their control and, despite overwhelming odds against them, including the wrath of mother-nature herself, fall madly and passionately in love. That’s romance. When both of the people are men, that’s gay romance.
People are acting strangely, disappearing, and turning up dead. Someone needs to find out why and put a stop to it. That’s a detective story. When the cast of characters one meets on the way to solving the mystery includes drag queens, leather men, hustlers, bitchy waiters, homophobic cops and people living with AIDS; that’s a gay detective story.
A visitor from a planet with technology centuries more advanced than our own comes to Earth in pursuit of a mad scientist/master criminal who is intent upon taking over our world and killing or enslaving all of humankind. The visitor is a cop on a mission to save our world by stopping the villain and returning him to their home planet to face justice for his evil deeds. That’s the stuff of science fiction. When the cop in question introduces himself to the human he’s chosen to help him save the world; an attractive waiter in a trendy Chicago restaurant, by asking if he can buy the briefs the waiter is wearing; that becomes science fiction of another kind.
And when one combines all these genres into one novel, one gets author Mark Zubro’s new book; Alien Quest.
Full disclosure: I have not read much science fiction, detective fiction, nor many romance novels so I can’t speak from any depth of experience with these genres. I’ve read several of Zubro’s books because I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Zubro on several occasions. He is charming and witty and we share a fondness for a particular Danish pastry from bakeries in Racine, Wisconsin. I can’t think of a better reason for choosing a book.
Author of some two dozen detective novels featuring gay protagonists, Alien Quest is Zubro’s first venture into the science fiction genre. The cover lists it as “Book One In The Alien Danger Series” so I assume it will not be his last. I asked the author what prompted him to add sci-fi to his oeuvre. He explained that he got the idea many years ago had been working on it for a long time while continuing to write the detective stories for his “Paul Turner” and “Tom & Scott” series.
Zubro’s descriptions of Chicago, especially gay Chicago, lend great verisimilitude to his stories. The characters in the book are interesting. I came to like some and dislike other. Most importantly, aliens excepted, they are people I know or have met in my life.
I particularly like the way to science fiction aspects are presented. The book is set in the present, not some distant year 2587.1. There is enough futuristic technology to hold my interest and advance the plot but not so much that the gadgets become the story. Indeed, one of the more endearing qualities of the alien hero is that, in some cases, he doesn’t really understand how things work. I feel that way about many of the tools I use on a daily basis; like my iPhone. Seeing that in the visitor from a more advanced world makes him seem more; well….’human’.
The ending of Alien Quest positions its characters well for future adventures of the alien, detective and romantic kinds. I enjoyed reading the book and look forward to books Two and beyond.
by Mark Zubro
MLR Press 2013