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Dog Warrior
Wen Spencer
Roc, 306 pages

Dog Warrior
Wen Spencer
Wen Spencer grew up on the family farm in Evans City, Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Information Science, and has worked various jobs from Aluminum Expediting to Medical Research and Museum Renovation. Spencer is also the author of Alien Taste, first in the Ukiah Oregon series.

Wen Spencer Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Bitter Waters
SF Site Review: Tainted Trail

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

First, the nitty-gritty: Readers who've followed the Ukiah Oregon series from the beginning will not be surprised to learn that Spencer once again delivers a compact -- and compelling -- blend of SF action, suspense, and characterization in a gritty, down-to-earth setting. New readers will be happy to learn this is a good mid-series entry point, with all the necessary backstory woven in quite naturally, thanks in part to shifting the point-of-view to a brand new character.

The story takes off like a rocket from the very first page when, enroute to Cape Cod for some nefarious business, Atticus Steele and his partner and lover Ru (Hikaru Takahashi), discover a dead body hidden in the trunk of a suspicious car at a rest area on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Actually, Atticus sniffs out the body. Literally. And once found, it only takes a moment to see that Atticus and the dead man are related, more intimately than he could ever have expected: the corpse, healing even now, belongs to his long-lost "younger twin brother". Who is, of course, Ukiah Oregon, fellow half-breed, part alien and part human, with expanded senses, strength, and endurance, and the ability to heal from nearly any wound.

Just what Atticus needs on top of an already complicated situation. He and Ru are on the way to Cape Cod to meet members of a biker gang called the Iron Horses, from whom they're planning to buy a designer drug known variably as Pixie Dust, Invisible Red, Blissfire. and Liquid Lust, said to be more popular than Ecstasy, and also frequently deadly. Ukiah wears a leather jacket with the insignia of a biker gang called the Dog Warriors. Are they also involved with the Ironhorse bikers? And what does a techie cult called the Temple of New Reason have to do with all this?

Like the wolf whose genes were blended with their alien progenitor, Ukiah and Atticus are both protective of their friends and suspicious of outsiders. And both have plenty to hide. All Atticus wants, really, is to do his job well, and be left alone to live his life. But now it's time for secrets to be revealed, time to acknowledge blood ties and take sides.

Like her previous books, Wen Spencer's latest is an expert balancing act of fantastic speculation and nearly noir realism, a solid SF thriller with some truly memorable characters. Dog Warrior plays out with all the emotion and bombast of a Hollywood blockbuster, yet its characters keep the story grounded, both intimate and believable.

Copyright © 2004 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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