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The Challenge    by Susan Kearney order for
by Susan Kearney
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

After being saved from certain death by being taken out of her time into the future, the last thing ex-Secret Service agent Tessa Camen expects is to be asked to represent her world in a crucial Challenge so that Earth can join the Federation of Planets and obtain resources necessary to clean up its extremely polluted atmosphere. Failure is not an option, as it means death - a quick one for Tessa and a slow, inevitable one for her planet.

The challenge will test her psi (a sort of mental force) abilities. Tessa's convinced she has none. Her instructor, the enigmatic and alluring Kahn, leader of the planet Rystan, has to activate these talents inside Tessa within a few short weeks. Kahn's strategy is to use the time-tested method of sexually frustrating Tessa to bring out her powers. Not realizing this, Tessa (who happens to be a martial arts expert) soon turns the tables on her teacher.

Susan Kearney's setting involves a federation of planets, somewhat similar to that in the Star Trek series. The continual sexual tension between Kahn and Tessa highlights the differences between them, both culturally and emotionally. All is resolved, despite dangerous adversaries, and with the timely help of slimy friends. Caught up in stellar events billions of light years away, readers will find that time flies faster than Dora the sentient computer can propel our protagonists and their spaceship through hyperspace.

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