17. Behind the Gem by Ken Hart
An ordinary man finds himself suddenly transported across space and time and romantically pursued by a beautiful, gentle alien. Such is the conceit of Behind the Gem, and the plot's fast pace and simple wording make it read at first like bizarre fantasy.
But it is so fast and easy to read, with event piling cleanly upon event, that one is drawn in. Gradually, explanations are revealed for the hasty beginning and the plot becomes both more interesting and more subtle. The outdoorsy, outspoken protagonist, Ray, is hard not to sympathize with. He is a masculine everyman with plenty of heart, soul,and brain. The female protagonist, known as Amber, is sympathetic, but less interesting aside from her alien nature. Despite her odd appearance, stereotypical femininity is her chief trait. This apparent stark delineation of the sexes is called into sharp relief when Hart pulls a twist that undermines the very structure of gender. I wish that more had been done with it, but even so, it provided some interesting avenues of thought.
While the earlier parts of the book seem fantastical, it later follows more classic sci fi threads. Even the writing style, simple and straightforward, calls to mind more classic sf. It hearkens back to the days when ideas were all that were needed to captivate the readers. Although I personally prefer a more luxuriant writing style, those who enjoy classic sci fi adventures should definitely check out Ken Hart. This is probably not a book for those who are not already sf fans, but those who are will appreciate the old school style and active plot.
Received for review from the author.