The blatant insincerity of Michelle Proulx’s Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It, published originally in 2013, is made clear even in the title. The novel itself is stuffed with romance tropes and science fiction tropes, and littered with cultural references. There are times when you expect someone to just hand the naive Earth-girl heroine a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with those wonderfully soothing bright pink letters ‘DON’T PANIC’, because ultimately this is a story of real men, real women, and real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. Instead of babel fish, however, there are lamri crystals, reminiscent perhaps of the black crystals of Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer.
Despite the general absurdity of the plot – not only is Eris abducted from Earth by one lot of aliens, but another lot conducts experiments on her, even removing her brain for closer examination – the characters are constructed with care and in detail, and the romance between Eris and Varrin plays out well and with lots of humour.
I have no real complaints about the Sci-Fi setting of the novel, and generally the writing is excellent, but for me the core romantic plot of the novel is crippled by romance tropes exaggerated to the point of parody. Eris is a sweet, innocent virgin whose courage and good spirits win her allies, but she is also a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl who sews discord like the goddess she is named for. Varrin is the ultimate bad-ass, victorious in any brawl, utterly amoral and devilishly handsome – not to mention extremely wealthy and a wanted criminal across the galaxy.
As a lighthearted YA Romance it works. As Science Fiction… It’s unsatisfying. Varrin is too often a caricature, and Eris spends far too much of the novel entirely helpless. In contrast, when Killashandra fell in love with her kidnapper in Crystal Singer’s sequel, it wasn’t because he came riding to her rescue.
Still, it’s a very entertaining novel, and I look forward to the imminent sequel, Chasing Nonconformity.