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The Ultimatum    by Susan Kearney order for
by Susan Kearney
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Kearney offers up her third futuristic interstellar series, whose main protagonists are brought together by another life-and-death galactic dilemma centering on the planet Earth. This time a cure must be found for a deadly Terran virus that is rocketing across the galaxy at light speed.

Dr. Alara Calladar is a renowned biogeneticist on her home world and might be the only one who can unravel this virus's intricacies. Alara belongs to the Endekian race, a society whose women have been made slaves to their genetics. If they don't make love on a regular basis, they will die. Even worse, once they've mated and taken a husband, the wife's cells regenerate to match his. If her husband should die or be killed the wife's swift demise is guaranteed. Alara has always found this glitch in Endekian genetics aberrant and has been working feverishly to find a cure.

Enter Rystani star pilot Xander who requires Alara's expertise in finding a cure for the Terran virus. Alara points out that Endekian law prevents women from leaving their home world and is content to leave it at that. As a rule, she doesn't have much use for men other than for mating as needed to keep her alive. But the honorable Xander insists and even goes so far as to issue an ultimatum; he will make love to her and keep her alive if she will use her scientific and psi-talents to identify the DNA string that eludes other scientists. She agrees and each does their duty. However, the longer they're together, the more Alara finds herself attracted to the bold star pilot (as he is to her) and the faster her cells adapt to his body. Soon she may have no choice but to become Xander's mate, but how will he react to the news?

Whether she's writing contemporaries or futuristic love stories, Susan Kearney has garnered a reputation for adding sizzle to the mix and The Ultimatum is no exception. The outer space setting gives one or two of these scenes a bold diversity and Alara and Xander are well matched as they give in to their attraction. As a whole though, the story lacks a certain amount of scientific credibility or purpose since the entire mission seems controlled by a race of higher intelligence with an agenda of their own. I hope the author will explain their part in this series more fully in upcoming installments.

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