Book Review: A Line In The Ice by Jamie Craig

I dig a good, original science fiction story – not the typical spaceships full of aliens landing on Earth/only Will Smith can save us story. When I read the opening chapter of A Line In The Ice, it sounded utterly fascinating, so I jumped at the chance to read and review. I was not disappointed. I was a little…caught off guard with an aspect of the book, but I’ll explain that later.

It’s present-day, and a small group of military personnel, collected from several different countries, are the front line on a tiny battlefield in Antartica, where a rift has formed allowing creatures from another world to enter ours. Day by day, this team has to patrol and pick off these creatures before enough of them can gather to spread to the rest of the world.

The story itself is fascinating, and as we find out at the end the creatures not only aren’t what they seem, but may not be the true danger. But the more fascinating aspect of the story are the characters. The author (authors actually – it’s two writing as a collaborative work under a pseudonym) developed the people even better than the settings and technologies used, which sometimes can be hard to do (science fiction tends to focus somewhat more on those than the people, and can hurt a story). The main character Charlie (female) is tough yet tender, has flaws and needs, and is someone the reader can really relate to. Lysander, the male lead, is also well thought out and described, and even the supporting cast have distinct personalities that make it easy to tell who is speaking, acting, etc.

The book editing is flawless. This is one of my biggest pet peeves – I have sort of an OCD when it comes to typos, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, and so on. When I read many self-published works, those errors, even small ones, pull me out of the story. (Actually even in some traditionally published, Big 6 works I see those – Dan Brown, I’m looking at you!) If they used an editor, he or she is top notch. If they didn’t, they themselves should be commended. It’s clean, well-written, and easy to understand, with no jarring errors. As a matter of fact, only two things caught my eye – a missing space after a period/before next sentence, and one word repetition (the word ‘spare’ twice in one sentence). I’m not being nit-picky, I’m just saying the book was so clean that that’s all I saw. Well done.

But now, the caught-off-guard part, and something that, if the authors are reading this, I must strongly suggest they state clearly in the book blurb/description. A Line In The Ice has several scenes of heavy erotica. Not “she placed her hand on his strong muscled chest”, but “she wrapped her lips around his…” type of erotica. I read some of the Amazon reviews prior to reading the book, and they mention ‘a dash of romance.’ Whoa, not quite – this is not romance, by any means. I think those reviewers may have been glossing over that in order to make a clean, innocuous review, but the fact that this erotica is in the book MUST be mentioned somewhere in the description. I read the first chapter and excerpts and almost gave the book to my 14 year old son, who is a voracious advanced reader and loves scifi. Wow, can you imagine those discussions afterwards? Come to find out the authors have a background in erotica and this is their first stab at science fiction. That’s all well and good, no problem at all, but it needs to be specified, an explicit warning, before someone buys the book.

And finally, just my personal opinion as a long-time science fiction reader and fan, and now writer. I don’t think that type of erotica belongs in this type of story. The novel itself was excellent and stands on its own; those scenes really pulled me out of the book, almost like someone else wrote them and put them in later. Yes, there is a love interest between the main characters, but it could have been done in a more ‘romance’ way. And only because of that would I knock the rating down a bit.

Excellent story, very well developed characters, different setting, believable technology, and a unique premise. I’d give it a 7 out of 10 – again my only ding is for the erotica (please change the book description to reflect this!)




Tour Notes:
Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official Line in the Ice blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.
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  1. Catana - August 25, 2011 10:01 am

    Your review reminded me that I want to write a post about the inclusion of erotica in books that don’t need it and probably shouldn’t have it. It isn’t a bad thing that erotica has come out of the closet, so to speak, but it seems that there’s increasing pressure to consider it absolutely necessary in any book that includes a romance. Talk about a good book spoiled, I was completely pulled out of the beautifully imagined and written Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale, when a graphic sex scene appeared near the end.

    • Leah Petersen - August 25, 2011 10:58 am

      I agree that erotica should be clearly disclosed. But since it’s a genre in itself, I don’t see how “books that don’t need it” or Steve’s “this type of story” applies. It’s written to that audience. The sci-fi is the sub-genre, not the other way around.

      Don’t get me wrong, the erotica wasn’t my type of thing, but within the erotica genre… I imagine it would bomb if there was no erotica in it. 😉

      • Catana - August 25, 2011 11:14 am

        Leah, erotica is a genre in itself, but so is science fiction. If this was intended to be a science fiction novel, and the romance was a side plot rather than central, then the erotica is the sub-genre. Unless you take the position that if a book contains any erotica at all, then it is erotica, regardless of any other genre it claims to be.

  2. Leah Petersen - August 25, 2011 10:55 am

    I was going to laugh at you for not knowing the erotica was there, because their site and Goodreads are plenty up-front about that. But then I checked Amazon and I see no one has tagged it as such. I often only go there for my info too, so I’m going to tag it myself, since, you’re right, that’s important to know ahead of time.

    • Steve - August 25, 2011 11:11 am

      Ha ha, laugh away! I guess my point was that stumbling across it on Amazon, nothing in the book description, title, or even cover art even remotely suggested erotica. To me, those three things scream ‘science fiction’ and I’m not sure a lot of typical shoppers would dig much deeper than that (checking authors’ sites, Goodreads, etc.).

      I see that the categories they put the book under are just fiction & romance, not erotica. To me scifi is the genre here, unless they change the book description.

      • Catana - August 25, 2011 11:18 am

        I agree with you, Steve. A science fiction novel that contains a romance isn’t any less science fiction. The same applies if erotic elements are added. Maybe this is a problem with shifting perceptions. Science fiction is SF only if it has aliens, space ships, etc.? SF isn’t allowed to have romance? Or contain erotica? And erotica is so powerful that it negates whatever genre the author intended?

      • Leah Petersen - August 25, 2011 11:28 am

        You know, it just occurred to me that I knew in advance that this was published by Carina Press and, while it’s not all they do, erotica is a large part of what they publish. I made the assumption that it was in that category but now that I’ve gone to Carina Press’s site, it’s not labeled as such there.

        Very odd, because I would never have expected (or wanted) this level of explicit sex in a simple romance or sci-fi.

        Hmpf. Looks like I was wrong about this one. I did go over and add my review to Amazon, something I’d neglected to do, and I made sure it mentioned the erotic angle and tagged it as such.

  3. pepperespinoza - August 25, 2011 11:21 am

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for the excellent review and I’ll be sure to forward your comments about the editing to our lovely editor, Alissa, at Carina Press. I’m very glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

    Re: genre, this is a romance novel, published through an arm of Harlequin (Carina is the digital publisher). As Leah pointed out, the sub-genre here is sci-fi (one of our favorite sub-genres to work in) and while we want to provide a great yarn for every reader, Jamie Craig’s primary audience–the audience reading us for the past 5 years–expects a well drawn romance with more than a few explicit scenes. In fact, this novel doesn’t even count as “erotic romance” in the romance genre (the eroticism didn’t drive the plot and there are no alternative lifestyles), and we had romance agents tell us that we needed to add *more* sex if we wanted to sell it at all.

    What it comes down to is an expectation of genre. People who purchase the book from the publisher know full well it’s going to be a romance with other elements, but people who are unfamiliar with our work or Romanceland are not going to have that expectation. Unfortunately, as the authors, we have no control over the blurb, the cover, or how the book is marketed. All we can do is write it and hope for the best.

    Thanks again for the great review,

    • Steve - August 25, 2011 11:45 am

      Hi Pepper, thanks for the response. I must admit you dropped my jaw a bit with “no control over the blurb.” (Then again I’m a self-published author and I don’t have any trad publisher rules experience.) I would think even the publisher would take at least some input from the authors on this, as like I mentioned I almost gave this to my son to read based on the blurb and sample. You as an author, and they as a publisher, could catch a lot of flak from non-romance buyers not expecting that sort of thing in the book, and that flak would be justified as it’s not specified/noted anywhere. And once those reviews are posted on Amazon, they’re there for good, and will bring down the star average – hurting your (and your publisher’s) sales.

      I’d hate to see the book get negative reviews online (as it’s a very good story) from buyers that may have been even more ‘caught off guard’ than I was. I’d beg and plead with Harlequin/Carina to at least get a one sentence “contains explicit scenes”, or something along those lines, added.

      Thanks again, glad I had a chance to read it – very unique story!

  4. Catana - August 25, 2011 11:53 am

    If I’d known that the book is published by Carina, I would have agreed with Leah right off. I assume that anything coming from Carina is either a romance or has strong romantic elements. (and erotic elements) But Steve is quite right that this needs to be clearly stated. Readers of SF don’t expect romance and especially not eroticism, so we’re entering territory where it can be difficult to make recommendations.

  5. Mike (@Comkey) - March 13, 2012 6:10 pm

    Is anybody here old enough to have read Martin Caidin? He wrote ‘Marooned’ and ‘Cyborg’ and both were adapted to movies and TV series. I remember being jarred as a youngster by the ‘sex scenes’ in his books. Now they would be seen as PG, probably, but then I remember thinking, “This is Sci-Fi, darnit! No sex!” The blurring of the genres seems to be an old problem to this day.

    That said, I won’t let that stop me from reading the book!


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