Untaken, By J. E. Anckorn

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Untaken is an interesting blend of styles, combining Judy Blume-style coming-of-age stuff with the roughness of Stephen King.  The one thing both of those authors share is their solid grasp on characters, and so you’ve got some interesting teens at the heart of a story of an alien invasion.  The characters are so interesting, in fact, that I kept getting mildly annoyed when the aliens or the government squads showed up, because I far preferred the quiet scenes where they were toodling around on the road looking for shelter.
This is, to say the least, an interesting complaint for a book about a space invasions.
The two leads are sharply delineated: you have Gracie, a slightly spoiled ordinary teenager who bitches about Mom and Dad until they get vacuumed up into the sky by silver-tentacled space parasites.  And you have Brandon, the son of an alcoholic and blatantly crazy father, who’s trying his best to live up to his Dad’s skewed ideals before again, whoops, space monsters.
The two make for a pretty good team.  Brandon has the know-how to survive, but has his dad’s twisted dreams of AMURCA and no common sense.  Gracie has a lot of common sense and a lot of school booksmarts, but not a whole lot of courage in dealing with the initial onslaught.  They make a fine team, especially when they pick up a small kid who may or may not be an alien himself.
If you like Stephen King, some of the action sequences are superbly Kingenated in flavor, particularly the scenes where a) the aliens invade Brandon’s house, and b) the scene where the aliens stalk our heroes through a shopping mall.  Anckorn has a really good sense of tension, and when you combine that with her natural gift for characterization, you bite your nails worrying that everyone will make it out okay.
And in fact, the biggest issues I have with the book is when she strays from Brandon and Gracie.  The end of the book doesn’t tie into their personalities as much as I’d like – it’s an ending, but they feel a little ancillary.  And there’s a romance in the book that felt a little YA-obligatory to me, because Brandon and Gracie are good for each other but I didn’t necessarily feel sparks flying.
Still, it was a lot of fun, and I gobbled it up in about three sessions in the bathtub, which is quick reading for me.  The aliens were interesting, and they had actual motivation, which is something that’s comparatively rare in alien stories – quite often aliens are treated like deux ex machinae, doing whatever they in order to propel the plot, yet the aliens here actually had a pretty solid reason for their invasion.
I’d like to see where Gracie and Brandon go from here.  Currently Untaken is only $4.99 on Amazon Kindle, so if you feel like being creeped out, I’d say it’s a good purchase.

All Comments Will Be Moderated. Comments From Fake Or Throwaway Accounts Will Never Be approved.