Review: Core Punch by Pauline Baird Jones

core punch by pauline baird jonesFormat read: ebook provided by the author via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction
Series: Uneasy Future #1
Length: 140 pages
Publisher: Pauline Baird Jones
Date Released: June 9, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

A kiss may be all they have life expectancy for.

When an intergalactic cop exchange program serves up an alien partner for NONPD Detective Violet Baker, she can’t help wishing the handsome alien would be a little less Joe Friday about keeping the pleasure out of their business. Yeah, he’s kind of purple and she can’t pronounce his name to save her life, but he’s almost the only guy in the New Orleans New police department that she’s not related to.

Dzholh “Joe” Ban!drn has come a long way hunting the evil that has infiltrated Vi’s floating city. When he meets his charming partner, he discovers another reason to stamp out evil. If only he wasn’t keeping so many secrets from her…

When an epic hurricane heads their way, they are sent dirt side to New Orleans Old (NOO) on a rescue mission. But murder and sabotage strands them in the heart of the raging storm.

As they fight for their lives, Joe realizes that the evil he’s hunting is actually hunting them….

My Review:

key by pauline baird jonesCore Punch certainly occurs sometime after The Key (reviewed here) in Pauline Baird Jones Project Enterprise series, but the science fictional elements in Core Punch are not the center of the story. Core Punch is a survival against the elements story; where the hope-to-be survivors are both cops, and it’s possible that a mysterious enemy has taken advantage of the storm to make sure that everything that can go wrong does go wrong for our heroes.

There is often a question in the story whether they are meant to survive, meant to die, or are just in the middle of a gigantic and deadly test. Their mission is always clear–get out alive. But someone (several someones) may have different agendas of their own.

The story takes place in a future New Orleans, where technology was used 20 years in the past to move the citizens of “The Big Easy” or “The Big Uneasy” in Jones’ future, from New Orleans Old (NOO), the city we know now, to New Orleans New (NON). NON is a quasi replica of NOO, except that it is a sky city, elevated above the wreck of NOO. And they have skimmers and space cars. The future envisioned in The Jetsons is finally here!

NOO has survived not only Hurricane Katrina, but also a Hurricane Chen sometime between 2005 and the book’s now. In the book’s now, Hurricane Wu Tamika Felipe is bearing down on both NOO and NON, fully capable of earning its inevitable nickname, WTF.

Violet Baker and her partner are police officers in the NONPD, unfortunately taking a police skimmer (just as flimsy as it sounds) down to the surface of NOO to pick up land dwellers who ignored the original warnings that WTF was an SOB.

Vi Baker is related to most of the NONPD. The Baker family collectively cleaned up the corruption in the New Orleans PD by replacing all the corrupt cops with family. But it’s kind of strange for Vi, not only is the NONPD effectively the family business, but her Captain is also her Uncle.

Her partner Joe is where the science fictional element really finds its way into our story. The exploration of the galaxy that results from the Project Enterprise mission in The Key has become an intergalactic tourism and exchange program. Joe, whose real name is unpronounceably Dzholh Ban!drn, is a cop from another galaxy on a job exchange program. He also happens to be slightly purple. And equipped with a nanite he calls Lurch. (Yes, that Lurch).

Joe is also the only cop in the NONPD that Vi finds attractive. While it helps that he’s one of the few who is not a blood relation, it’s also that he really is handsome, if slightly shy and by-the-book (and purple).

Vi refers to LOTS of things as crapeau. The police skimmer that she and Joe were assigned to retrieve reluctant surfacers is the epitome of crapeau. It is so crapeau that it crapeaus out in the middle of the worst hurricane NOO has ever seen, while they are transporting an unexpectedly found murder victim and his dog.

Joe isn’t sure whether the skimmer was just that bad, or whether someone is setting him up. And whether Vi is really his enemy, or just the woman he desperately wants to kiss before the storm finishes them off.

Escape Rating B+: It may be because I haven’t read The Big Uneasy (and I want to), but this relatively short novella left me wondering about how the universe got from “first intergalactic trip” in The Key to “frequent enough for exchange programs” in Core Punch.

They are definitely the same universe, because of the Garradians and Joe’s nanite, although Lurch is a bit more advanced an AI than the individual nanites in The Key.

Whatever is going on with Lurch and his enemy needs fleshing out. There was a part of me that kept wondering what Lurch’s agenda was. Not just that he wants to eliminate his enemy, but he seemed to have some other secrets up his virtual sleeve. It may be that he just can’t share the perspective of a flesh-and-blood (and hormones) creature. But it felt like Lurch was hiding something besides himself.

Also I wasn’t sure if Vi had actual powers, or if she was just really good at manipulating people. The story could be read either way. But I really liked both her and Joe. A lot of things in her world may be crapeau, but she herself was pretty terrific.

Fighting the storm in that absolutely crapeau skimmer made for edge-of-the-seat tension. There were times when I felt like I was torquing my own body to help them wrest a few more feet of motion out of that POS vehicle.

Core Punch read like it was the introduction to something bigger, and I really want to see whatever that is.

sci fi romance quarterlyThis review originally appeared in Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly.

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