Rating: 5 stars
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System Six is an experimental, intelligent battle armor and weapons system. He is designed to mesh with a host, but System Six hates his intended host and has been avoiding fully integrating with him. It now looks like Six may be destroyed for not working properly, so to buy some time, System Six decides to try to slow his spaceship down. But things don’t work quite as planned and instead Six ends up sending the ship crashing down to Earth.
The Army can’t believe when what looks like a missile explosion turns out to be a crashed spaceship of armed aliens. They manage to defeat the aliens with the help of some massive weaponry and take the bodies of three of the aliens off to the lab for further study. But along the way, System Six manages to escape, jumping into the body of cowboy Riley Cooper.
Two months ago, Riley fled from his boyfriend Misha Tokarev when he found out Misha was actually an assassin for the Russian mob. But now he has seen one of Misha’s lackeys looking for him and Riley takes off once again. After stopping for some car trouble, Riley blacks out, and upon waking up, Riley feels like something is watching him. He is pretty shocked to learn that he has become at least the temporary host to an alien, one who can talk to him and protect him. Riley is pretty freaked out, but manages to take it in stride, growing to like System Six, who has now decided to call himself McClane (after watching a Die Hard marathon with Riley). The two form a close relationship, both a partnership and an extreme emotional connection, becoming bonded more than just physically.
In the meantime, Misha is determined to get Riley back. He loves Riley desperately and is willing to do anything to show Riley how important he is to him, even walking away from his crime family. But Riley is on the run and is afraid to have Misha anywhere near him. So Misha is tracking him down with the help of his two right-hand men. The Army is also tracking Riley, having figured out that McClane has jumped into his body, and determined to recapture the alien. They are pretty sure that Riley is under McClane’s influence and are ready to capture or destroy him at any cost.
When all these forces collide, the results are explosive. And even when Riley and Misha reconnect, they are still not safe. The Army is determined to capture Riley and McClane and will stop at nothing to get them, even if it means killing them all.
Wow. I had no idea what to expect from this story and it just blew me away. It is like all your summer blockbuster movies merged into one with non-stop action and excitement. Everything you can possibly imagine pretty much happens here. Mob assassins. Alien encounters. Helicopter gun fights. Survivalists in desert compounds. Gigantic battles and explosions. It is a road trip story, a romance, a thriller, and a science fiction movie all rolled into one and I just loved every minute.
Ok, so let’s break this down, shall we? My favorite part of this whole story is Riley and McClane. Riley adapts surprisingly well to the idea that he nows has an alien being living in his body. He gets it; McClane is a “bone rider” and needs to merge with someone to live, and Riley was nearby. No hard feelings. There is a quirky sort of fun to their interactions as McClane learns about the human world (he is a big fan of nachos) and tries to understand why they can’t just kill everyone who pisses them off. In addition to the humor and playfulness between them, this is also the most fascinating relationship in the book. Riley and McClane are two beings in one body. They have two minds, but there is such a strong symbiosis between them. As the story goes on, they develop a friendship, and then what in many ways is an emotional and somewhat romantic relationship. Fally does an amazing job with these characters, making the feelings between them so strong and believable.
The second main relationship we encounter here is between Riley and Misha. It is clear that these men love each other deeply. Riley refuses to be with a man who murders for a living, but that hasn’t changed the love he still feels. We can see how torn he is between his head and his heart, and how that changes and develops as the story progresses. And Misha is deeply in love with Riley, literally walking through fire for him. On one hand, we know Misha has done such terrible things. But on the other hand, we can see how strong his love is for Riley and his willingness to do anything to save him. Again, it is to Fally’s credit that she makes Misha so sympathetic and makes us root for them as a couple.
What is even more interesting is how Riley, Misha, and McClane all work together. Although I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as an menage story, there are definitely elements of that here. Riley and McClane have an emotional and sexual connection, as do Riley and Misha. And ultimately all three of them become emotionally and sexually involved together. It is a fascinating dynamic, and one that makes for an incredible story.
The relationships are only one part of this one however, and the suspense aspect of it all is just fabulous. There is so much going on here it is just a breathless ride. Riley on the run from Misha and the Army. Misha chasing after Riley hoping to win him back. Misha’s mobster father after him, determined to bring him back to the fold and make him give up on his obsession with Riley. The Army hunting Riley down, leading to explosions and epic battles. The first part of the book is especially exciting as there are three groups on the move and you just know when they collide it is going to be explosive. The second half has a little more relationship focus, but it too has unbelievable suspense and excitement with drama and explosive battle scenes. This is a long book, and it is amazing to me how Fally manages to keep the momentum going and how creatively it all plays out.
I am also impressed by the way this story has so much going on, yet manages to hold together so well. There are many POVs, tons of characters, and a variety of plot lines happening simultaneously that interweave at various points. Not to mention a merging of science fiction, romance, and contemporary action thriller. Plus a humor and playfulness that provides some fun and comic relief (I loved when the spaceship lands and the guys inside see the humans and are like, Oh no! Aliens!). It could have been a hot mess, yet somehow Fally manages to take all these elements and make them work together just seamlessly. I was captivated from the very start and couldn’t put it down.
So I have to say, I just loved this story and it was one of my very favorites of the year. It was just so exciting, and at the same time incredibly moving and romantic. The characters are layered and well developed, the romance is touching, and the story creative. I encourage everyone to give it a try and highly recommend Bone Rider to you all.
Cover Review: I love this cover. It gets the setting of the book, the color is lovely, and it has just that right haunting tone. Very nicely done.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.