“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” –Friedrich Nietzsche
Author: J. Fally
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 310 Pages
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Blurb: Riley Cooper is on the run. Misha Tokarev, the love of his life, turned out to be an assassin for the Russian mob, and when it comes to character flaws, Riley draws the line at premeditated murder. Alien armor system McClane is also on the run, for reasons that include accidentally crashing a space ship into Earth and evading U.S. military custody. A failed prototype, McClane was scheduled for destruction. Sabotaging the ship put an end to that, but McClane is dubbed a bone rider for good reason—he can’t live without a host body. That’s why he first stows away in Riley’s truck and then in Riley himself. Their reluctant partnership soon evolves into something much more powerful—and personal—than either of them could have imagined.
Together, they embark on a road trip from hell, made all the more exciting by the government troops and mob enforcers hot on their trail. Misha is determined to win Riley back and willing to do whatever it takes to keep him safe. When hitman and alien join forces, they discover their impressive combined potential for death and destruction. It will take everything Riley has to steer them through the mess they create.
Review: I’ve never read a single book in which anything good happens in the desert. Ever. It’s just not a friendly environment, and it seems as though whenever aliens decide to make their presence known to an unsuspecting Earth, the desert is the first place they choose to make contact. J.Fally’s Bone Rider is no different, though it’s not really a choice the aliens make to come to Earth in this story as much as it’s an unplanned nosedive that sends their spaceship crashing to this rough and inhospitable terrain. And trust me when I tell you these are not the friendly sort of Steven Spielberg style aliens either. Of course, the United States Military never declared open warfare on Mr. Spielberg’s extraterrestrials, so there is that component to the bloody and action packed battle that opens this book.
I absolutely loved the premise of Bone Rider, the story of a cowboy, Riley Cooper, who’s on the run from his lover, Misha Tokarev, whom Riley has inadvertently discovered is a hitman for the Russian Mafia. Driving through the dark Texas desert one night, Riley makes an all too close encounter of the alien kind, one that, unbeknownst to him, has just targeted him for death by a military that’s certain he’s now a danger to all of humankind. What System Six actually does, however, is turn Riley into a man who’s next to impossible to kill, in a symbiotic relationship that keeps the alien alive while latching onto Riley’s bones and making the man near to invincible.
Misha is using all the resources at his disposal to track Riley down and win him back, while avoiding the pressure from his family to fit into their plans for his future, because somewhere in the midst of all the secrets he’s kept from his erstwhile lover, Misha has fallen deeply in love with Riley and regrets the fact that the life he was bred and groomed for has become a betrayal that his cowboy refuses to overlook or excuse. As the US troops come closer to exterminating not only the alien who’s named himself McClane, so does Misha come closer to finding Riley in what becomes a dramatic race against time to save Riley’s life. The author got the tone of the action just right; it was an adrenaline pumping thrill ride at times, but ultimately, in the midst of all that action and suspense were moments that fell short for me and overshadowed the overall execution of the narrative.
With what I felt was far too many (more than half a dozen) character points of view, as well as more than a few scenes that felt extraneous and served neither to escalate the action nor to show the evolution of Riley and McClane, or Misha, this book seemed unfocused—it would’ve worked well as a romance or a sci-fi action/thriller, but didn’t work well as both for me—and evolved from an explosive and promising beginning into a bit of a struggle for me to remain interested in the omniscient narrator’s many diversions along the course of the plot unfolding. I wanted and needed a more focused development of the relationship between Riley and his bone rider, who had a great voice when he was on the page, as well as a relationship between Riley and Misha that was shown rather than told. As it is, the reader is offered multiple voices narrating their share of this story, which I felt in the end wove a 5 star premise with a delivery that, while it was a miss for me, could be a big hit for others.
I loved the beginning of this book, the climax and the resolution were both top notch as well. My only wish is that the structure of the middle would’ve been a better foundation to support the whole of the story.