DRIVEN, the third book of Dorchester's new Shomi line - which has an anime look and promises fast action and hot romance, delivers a fast read guaranteed to take the reader out of this world. The novel is a concoction of action/adventure and romance whose roots are definitely in the pulp arena.
This is Eve Kenin's first book, but new fans need not worry. She's also writing novels under her real name, Eve Silver.
DRIVEN begins with a bang in a futuristic frozen world where truckers and runners are the lifeblood of far-flung outposts of humanity. A large portion of the world's population has been depleted and the environment has turned toward the Ice Age. It's not quite there, but arable lands are few and far between, and there are communities stuck in the harshest circumstances while providing materials other than food to communities. Trucking remains the least expensive and surest means of transportation for cargo.
I loved the world. Images filled my head, triggered by the beautiful cover, and enhanced by Kenin's terrific prose. The thing that really pulled me in was the action, though. I'm a guy. I read romances. I enjoy writers that know how to mix action, suspense, mystery, and love stories. There are a lot of good writers out there. Eve Kenin (Eve Silver) is going to be one of those, and she's going to be read a lot.
The main character is Raina Bowen, daughter of a military father who taught her everything he knew about surviving in the harsh world they've inherited. She's a trucker, roving across the Northern Waste as an independent hauler, working when and where she can.
When the book opens, she's signed up for a race against the Janson Company, a group of truckers that are essentially pirates that will kill drivers and hijack their cargoes. In the opening chapter, Raina gets into a fight with a trucker and beats him down with her martial arts prowess. She's exactly the kind of rough-and-tumble woman that I love to root for. She's capable and deadly, plenty able to hold her own ground in physical battles, and clever enough to overpower opponents that outnumber her.
She's paired up with Wizard, a cipher of a man at first that demonstrates strange abilities and way of thinking that gets explained. Then I liked him even more.
In the beginning, it's hard to say who saved whom more. Raina seems to pull Wizard's butt out of the fire when he goes up against the Janson truckers, but when they talk later, he tells her everything was going according to his plan. And he makes perfect sense.
A sizeable chunk of the novel's opening is devoted to a road trip. Raina and Wizard fight their mutual foes and their attraction to each other. Then Raina figures out that Wizard is actually an assassin, one of the most cold-blooded killers in the frozen world they inhabit. Not only that, but it looks like he was going to kill her when he found out she was running guns, not grain like she thought. Her innocence is apparent to him, though, but he reveals the fact that the book's villain, Duncan Bane, set her up and is using the race as a means to his own ends.
The sexual tension matches the action, though. And when Kenin brings her characters together, the pages heat up and the sizzle is a tangible thing.
I really enjoyed the book. The idea of a bleak future, survivalists that live in fully-equipped trucks that roll across a deadly, icy landscape, sharply-drawn characters, and plenty of action kept me turning pages till I reached the end. The author's grasp of dialogue and character development is great, and she doesn't keep you hanging in limbo while she works out her plot. Things happen in this novel, then they keep happening.
This is the first of the Shomi titles I've read, and the first Eve Silver/Kenin book as well, but it definitely won't be the last.