Tap-Dancing the Minefield, by Lyn Gala
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Sometimes the fiercest battle a man faces is against himself.
In the hidden alleyways of New York City, George “Tank” Tankersley defeated what he believed were demons. But the victory cost too much. Tank joined the Army in the hope of outrunning the guilt haunting him—only to stumble into a vast and deadly conspiracy, the enemies he’d hoped to never encounter again, and the arms of the brilliant, eccentric scientist tasked with saving humanity.
In a world where the line between dark magic and alien science is thin, Dr. Lev Underwood must reverse engineer recovered alien technology to give humans a fighting chance against the extraterrestrial beings who consider Earth nothing more than a petri dish. His old friend, Colonel Clyde Aldrich, wants to protect Lev from entanglement with the scarred and emotionally volatile young soldier, but Lev cannot help the pull he feels toward Tank. Still, his first loyalty is to the secret government program, and love might have to take a back seat to protecting the world. But if he can find a way, Lev wants both.
Initially, I was hooked on this one because it was some whacky fun. If you’ve enjoyed Stargate SG-1 or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there’s a lot here that will seem very, very familiar to you. Basically, imagine Xander from Buffy joining SG-1 after graduation. That recognition actually increased my initial enjoyment of the story, but the whole thing is trying to cram too much backstory and worldbuilding into a story that doesn’t have enough room. This is a standalone novel, but it constantly feels like there are callbacks to a previous, non-existent, book. There was a persistent feeling of “am I missing something?” as I read this, which wasn’t endearing. I suspect that this book originally started as fanfiction, but hasn’t been localized enough to stand on its own. There are some very fanfiction-y tropes, as well, like the sex pollen in the first chapter, an event that basically ends up being shrugged off and ignored.
The core story of Tank is one that I liked, and it charts an important character arc of someone with low self-worth coming to realize that they have a great deal to offer. The book also engages with the emotional and physical ramifications of being a teenager fighting demons, which I also liked. The developing relationship between Tank and Lev feels shoved to the side in order to get through everything else, and other than one conversation early on, there’s nothing that convinces me that there’s any chemistry or spark between them.
I admit that I ended up skimming through the final chapters of this one, because it stretched out further than it really needed to. Once Tank’s past life and present life meet up, the story couldn’t shake the feeling of just being too large for itself.
Lynsey “Lyn” Gala started writing in the back of her science notebook in third grade and hasn’t stopped since. Westerns starring men with shady pasts gave way to science fiction with questionable protagonists which eventually gave in to any story with a morally ambiguous character. Even the purest heroes have pain and loss and darkness in their hearts, and that’s where she likes to find her stories. Her characters seek to better themselves and find the happy ending (or happier anyway), but it’s writing the struggle that inspires her muse. When she isn’t writing, Lyn Gala teaches in New Mexico.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.