Review: Hunter by Anna Hackett

Review: Hunter by Anna HackettHunter (Galactic Gladiators #12) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Galactic Gladiators #12
Pages: 199
Published by Anna Hackett on June 30th 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

From the dangerous desert sands to the deadly glitz of the city, the lawless desert planet of Carthago is filled with lethal hunters risking it all for the women who capture their hearts. HUNTER contains two novellas and one short story all set in the Galactic Gladiators series.

Desert Hunter: desert Hunter Bren will do whatever it takes to protect the smart, beautiful Mersi from his darkest secrets.

NOTE: previously released as part of the 2018 Pets in Space Anthology

Born, raised, and sold into servitude on the desert world of Carthago, Mersi Kassar has finally found her freedom and her place on the Corsair Caravan, leading travelers from the gladiator city of Kor Magna through the desert. She also works side by side with her friend—the big, silent Bren—a man she’s desperately in love with. But stubborn Bren shuts down her every attempt to deepen the feelings they have for each other and Mersi isn’t sure she can take the pain anymore.

Desert hunter Bren Hahn hides a terrifying darkness within, and will protect the few people he cares about. That includes Mersi—a woman who sparks a simmering passion he finds harder and harder to ignore. On a perilous journey in the heart of the desert, Mersi and Bren rescue a strange alien creature. Working together to heal the big, shaggy canine, their smoldering desire ignites, but their feelings turn out to be the least of their concerns. A deadly enemy is hunting their new pet. An enemy that threatens Bren’s darkest secret and all they hold dear.

Alien Hunter: head of security Tannon Gi lets no one get close, until a feisty cocktail waitress explodes into his orderly life.

NOTE: this is a brand-new, never-before-published story

Mina Lan’Gar left the desert for a new life in the glitzy heart of Kor Magna known as the District. As a brand-new cocktail waitress at the hottest casino, the Dark Nebula, she’s just trying to get ahead, but all she seems to do is lock horns with the casino’s taciturn head of security, Tannon Gi. The man’s hard body, neat suits, and serious face make her want to mess him up a bit. When she overhears people conspiring to strike a private gladiator party the casino is hosting, she knows she needs to help Tannon stop the attack.

Once a deadly alien hunter assassin, Tannon finally left the life that was destroying him one kill at a time, and made a life for himself at the Dark Nebula Casino. Nothing and no one causes trouble on his watch, and that includes the mysterious woman from the desert who stirs feelings in him that he’s never felt before. When he and Mina find themselves swept up in a fierce passion and a deadly plot, they will soon learn that nothing is quite what it seems…

Includes the short story: A Galactic Gladiators Christmas

NOTE: this is a free read on my website

Mistletoe, Santa Claus, and eggnog. Cyborg Imperator Magnus Rone finds himself in the middle of party filled with rescued humans from Earth, gladiators, cyborgs, and children, trying to understand the strange traditions of Christmas.

My Review:

Just like Rogue, one of the previous books in the Galactic Gladiators series, Hunter is really two books in one. Except that this time it’s more like two and a smidgen books in one.

The first novella included in Hunter is Desert Hunter, which was previously released in Pets in Space 3. As the Pets in Space anthologies tend to only be available for a limited time, now that the time is up Hunter is the only place to read Desert Hunter, a marvelous story about two members of Corsair’s caravan who love each other but haven’t managed to find their way towards each other.

Fiend from Desert Hunter by artist Nyssa Juneau

In this dangerous trek across a shifting planet, they finally bond – with the help of a very, very shaggy dog. Who isn’t always a dog, but who does love them both with all of its heart.

I was lucky enough to receive a preview copy of Desert Hunter and reviewed it as part of the run up to Pets in Space 3. It’s a terrific shaggy dog story, a lovely introduction to the world of the Galactic Gladiators, and a great friends-into-lovers combined with hero-feels-unworthy romance.

At the time, I gave it a B+, and I’ll stand by that rating.

The second novella in Hunter is Alien Hunter, which serves as a kind of “bridge” story between the Galactic Gladiators series and its followup House of Rone series, both set on the far-across-the-universe world of Carthago, amidst the gladiatorial arenas of its capital-city-cum-tourist-mecca, Kor Magna.

And just like one of the earlier stories in the Galactic Gladiators series, Guardian, Alien Hunter is set among the glittering lights of Kor Magna’s premier casinos, Dark Nebula.

The Dark Nebula Casino, and its owner Rillian, have ties to both the House of Galen and the House of Rone, along with some truly excellent security. Making it the perfect place to host a big party for the allied gladiatorial houses.

But someone wants to breach that excellent security. Probably plenty of someones, as the two houses have made it their business to wipe out the slavers’ illicit fight rings on Carthago while rescuing as many of the prisoners of those slavers as possible. With particular emphasis on rescuing the people that were taken from Earth.

As many of the gladiators have fallen in love with those Terran refugees, they have a vested interest in finding and freeing as many as possible. But these are both Houses of good guys (although not all of them are guys) who have been rescuing people from the slavers for all of their existence.

The romance in Alien Hunter is a bit different, and as usual not so much because of the hero but because of the heroine. Tannon Gi is the head of security for Dark Nebula, and he seems like a humorless monolith pretty much devoted to his job. Of course, there’s plenty of heart under that seemingly impenetrable mask.

Mina Lan’Gar, however, is not what she seems. Not even to herself. On the surface, she seems like a waitress without much education but with a heart of gold. She gives of her own meager salary to help those she works with who are in need.

She thinks that’s all there is to her, a woman from the desert who is hiding from her past. At least, that’s what she thinks until the aforementioned security breach, when she discovers all sorts of hidden talents of the “kicking ass and taking names” variety that she has no idea how she acquired.

Tannon tries to figure her out – and figure out why he can’t help but be attracted to her. When both of their secrets are finally exposed, they discover that they are perfect for each other – and that the secrets that were kept from Mina will help the Gladiators rescue yet more refugees.

There’s a lot packed into Alien Hunter, with enough backstory for new readers to get into this terrific SFR series.

I’m happy to give Alien Hunter another B+

And then there’s that smidgen of a short story, A Galactic Gladiators Christmas. This is a story that I had some series problems with. Not so much the story itself, which is cute and sweet and a great way to see how all the friends from the previous books in the series are doing.

The issue I have is that it’s a Christmas story. Not that I don’t read plenty of Christmas stories, in spite of it very much not being my holiday.

But this is a story set in a future that is far enough from now that Earth has a working space station orbiting Jupiter, with regular shuttle service between Earth and Jupiter. A future that I’d love to see, but based on current technology and current political will probably won’t exist for a century if not two.

To compare it to a different SFnal universe, Star Trek: Enterprise was set in the 22nd century, about 150 years from now. The Star Trek universe by that point was kind of post-religion, quite probably because no one wanted to go there in a world intended for mass appeal. There’s no way to deal with religion without making lots of people angry.

The question I ended up with after reading A Galactic Gladiators Christmas revolved around why Christmas? Or more specifically, why Christmas exclusively? Christmas is far from a universal holiday in the present. Because I’m a librarian, I looked up the numbers. About ⅓ of the current world population is Christian, ¼ is Muslim, ⅙ is unaffiliated and ⅙ is Hindu. Everyone else takes up the rest. Which means that Christmas is far from an Earth-wide holiday, and my personal opinion is that this won’t change in the future. (I tend to believe that religious adherence on Earth in the future will more resemble the Babylon 5 episode The Parliament of Dreams, where the line of representatives of Earth’s many different religions stretches beyond the range of the camera.)

To make a long story short, as this exposition is rapidly reaching the length of the short story it refers to, I found the Xmas story a disruption to my willing suspension of disbelief. I don’t think the population of Earth will give up all religious adherence in 150 or even 250 years. I can’t believe that a space station, which would be a collection of the best and the brightest from the entire planet, would be made up entirely of Christians. Nor do I believe that if a universal winter solstice holiday arises from our many current belief systems, that it will be called Christmas, which is a sacred holiday for a specific religion, regardless of the commercialism that has become attached to it.

In that Xmas party scene, I expected to see some people in the corners who, while more than willing to celebrate their friends’ holiday and/or to celebrate their survival and even their thriving in this new place with friends and family, would have been also sharing their own holiday traditions and reminiscing about their own family celebrations.

My feelings about this story are too conflicted to give it a rating. Your warp speed may definitely vary.

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