life or death?
Joan Wu, 46-year old exobotanist and miner for IGMC, woke up to VELMA’s long list of bad news up to and including possible death by bog, death by air, or death by a corrupt alien queen. While the bad news was dizzying, the worst part was that for a few blissful seconds, she’d forgotten her husband’s death and thought he was sleeping right next to her. She was trapped in the deadly Agothe-Fatheza, famous for its insatiable appetite, with no one for company except the artificial intelligence and a dinosaur she named Eunice, all while experiencing the grief of her widowhood, even after two long years. As her depression worsens, her will to live starts to shrivel up … until she hears Raxkarax’s voice for the first time. He’s coming for her, and she can’t decide if she should be relieved-or terrified. Because she’s learning that while Predator Planet might be populated with ferocious beasts, sometimes the most terrifying creature in the galaxy is love.
Raxkarax is no stranger to peril. A seasoned veteran of Certain Death, he knew the moment he heard there was a pod in the nightmarish Agothe-Fatheza that its occupant was his heart mate. With no hesitation and no fear, he set out on his quest to reach her before the Night Corruption consumed her body and soul, but he wasn’t prepared for the biggest threat he’d ever face: losing her love. Just like the sacred hunting grounds, Joan’s heart was best approached with caution, a healthy dose of patience, and abject awe at the unexpected beauty he found there.
As the entire planet threatens to heave its survivors off its very surface, and multiple threats combine to destroy the entire band of aliens and humans for good, Joan and Raxkarax find a precious and tender love between them that they must nurture and protect if they want to survive Certain Death with their hearts intact.
This is the fourth book in the Predator Planet series. While each book contains its own unique romance for a different couple, the series is best read in order to appreciate the scope of the larger plot. This book contains mature themes such as profane language, spousal death and infant loss, monster violence, unaliving ideation, chronic depression, and an awkwardly graphic consensual scene that fumbles around in the dark.
About The Series
Additionally, I had to wonder what a government would resemble if Goddesses ruled the heavens, and so a matriarchal society governed by Elder and Younger Sister-Queens was the logical next step. I have to admit I loved imagining a reverence bordering on fear in the hulking hunter-warriors for all females, but especially these new human interlopers found traipsing across Certain Death.
At the end of the day, even with these otherworldly aspects, the Predator Planet series really touches on what it means to be alive, to be close to death, to love and be loved. I hope you fall in love with the Predator Planet and all its denizens as much as I have.
Dozens of reviews of the Predator Planet books mention the worldbuilding. If you’re the kind of reader who loves full immersion in an alien culture, you’re going to love this series.
When I was crafting the book, I decided to use the exotic celestial bodies to form the basis of the alien culture. What would a race of beings believe about deity if there were two suns and two planets, and if many of the creatures on the planets formed sister-pair bonds?
It wasn’t a leap to imagine that that race would form a religion and mythos revolving around Sister Goddesses, and that they would imbue deep meaning in the cycles they observed both in the stars and in the woods.
“I absolutely loved this book. I read it in less than a day; I just couldn’t put it down! The main character, Esra, is fun, smart, brave, a little quirky, and easy to love, which has you cheering her on from the beginning. The writing is great and the imagery ranged from beautiful to sad to terrifying with it’s amazing detail. The plot was intricate, unique, and compelling. I can’t say enough good things about it. 5 stars. Definitely recommend and will definitely read again!”
Too Good to Be True Hero
Compassionate Portrayal of Mental Illness
Epistolary Romance Over Comms
Courageous Rescues and Crippling Fear
“VELMA, any luck on communications?” Standing near the monitors when she answered, I glanced at the muted video showing humans and aliens laughing and talking inside a sleek alien ship.
“Negative, Joan,” she said. “I will keep trying.”
“Mark the time, please,” I said.
“Day thirteen on Ikthe,” VELMA said. “Noon hour on adjusted local time. Would you like a rations update?”
“No thanks,” I said as I slid my knife blade along the thick white root I held in my right hand. “If these are edible, I’ll be fine.” I looked through my viewport over the bog where countless reeds clustered at its banks. If being the operative word.
A growing pile of uprooted plants behind me indicated my luck so far: bad. Every leaf, stem, pod, and vine I’d passed through the scanner had shown dangerous levels of toxins for humans. To be fair, my sampling came exclusively from the island. There could be other options across the bog.
Removing the root’s casing, I pulled out the tender flesh reminiscent of bamboo shoots crossed with cattails. Placing it in the clear box, I waited for the scanner’s results.
“Initial scan reveals the presence of manganese, vitamin K, and iron, as well as the presence of the flavonoid pigment anthocyanin,” VELMA said. “However, due to the concentration of cyanogenic glycosides, these roots will need to be heated before consuming.”
“Just like bamboo shoots or cassava,” I said, and pulled out the specimen. “Well good, I can cross that off the list.”
After thirteen days, VELMA knew to pull up my rudimentary checklist and place a red checkmark inside the little box next to Find Sustainable Food Source. At least I wouldn’t die of starvation. Right away.
Sparing another glance to the silent video, I brushed off the remaining bits of purple reeds from my pants and then gathered up the pile of foraged flora. My helmet secured, I activated the hatch and walked out onto the island.
VELMA had found the only spot of dry land capable of supporting the EEP’s weight in the vast bog I now called home.
An island of solid ground in a sea of mucky water that bubbled and popped, it boasted a crude diameter of three and three quarters meters, and not quite half of that was the space taken up by the pod. But small as it was, it had a variety of plants from which I’d pulled fruits, leaves, stems and roots for possible consumption. Of course, they’d all struck out except for the vibrant purple reeds that surrounded the entire island. My water filtration system treated the bog-water, and with those two factors, I knew I wouldn’t die from starvation or dehydration.
Hands on hips, I stared across the bog at the pacing rokhura.
Eunice was another matter, entirely.
“How’s it goin’ over there?” I shouted and waved.
Her dark orange throat sac billowed, but just as VELMA had taught me, no sound detectable to human ears came out. A line of drool stretched from her gaping narrow tooth-filled jaw to the ground which her huge talons clawed. Even from across the bog she looked as big as an elephant with her huge dino-like dark green body, powerful hind legs and tail, and long, slender front legs tipped with deadly claws.
Eunice had shown up on day five in which I’d stayed inside the pod for twelve hours sweating it out. In spite of VELMA’s lecture series I nicknamed “Fecal Matters”, I wasn’t convinced the rokhura wouldn’t jump in the bog and march its way to my ship, cracking it open like a Baugo Nut from Jeppsit 5.
When it became evident she wouldn’t dip a single claw into the bog, I ventured out and introduced myself. A walking buddy she was not, but she was a good listener.
“Great news, Eunice!” I said. “I can eat these roots! Just have to cook them first.” My external mic carried my voice across the bog where Eunice cocked her head.
I waved again and then got to work, kneeling at the shore to yank up a handful of the purple plants with white roots. It took significant elbow grease, but I managed to harvest four. I’d need to start slow and make sure my body could digest the fiber after so many days on the MRE packs.
Back inside, I pressed on the panel for the cook surface and heated the peeled roots until the outside was charred and the pulp inside was mushy.
“Flush the air vents,” I told VELMA, and when the pulse of air stopped, I removed my helmet.
The pungent tang of baked broccoli assaulted my nose in spite of VELMA’s venting; not a great sign that the reed was going to taste amazing, but fresh produce was fresh produce.
I bit off a chunk and chewed, the texture identical to undercooked bamboo but the flavor more “bland potato” with hints of overcooked Brussels sprouts. Chewing took a lot of work; I’d have to try boiling, sauteing and baking next.
“How is it?” VELMA asked.
Swallowing, I grimaced as the lump went down. “It’s chewy and mostly tasteless,” I said. “All things considered, I’d say that’s a win for Joan and VELMA.”
Salting the remaining portion from my limited stash of seasoning, I settled into the chair to eat the rest.
“Let’s go over the heart home myth one more time,” I said and bit into the root. The salt helped immensely, and VELMA pulled up video feed from the assorted conversations featuring Theraxl hunters and my fellow humans.
For whatever reason, my comms still wouldn’t send, but VELMA managed to receive, so upon waking from cryosleep a dozen days ago, I’d received all the vital information a survivor could need on Ikthe as well as the short histories of the three other women who’d landed here.
VELMA, the penultimate achievement in humans creating an evolving neural network, was my personal tour guide for Predator Planet, resident chemist, encyclopedia, therapist, and glorified poop scanner. She was also the source for entertainment and a great sounding board for my ideas. And lastly, she’d found her way into alien technology, and could access the archives of the alien race whose hunting grounds we’d inadvertently begun colonizing. Thankfully, the physiological phenomenon known as ‘finding one’s heart mate’ was making the transition from human interloper to loving companion nearly effortless. Minus all of the deadly wildlife interactions, of course.
Naturally, I was skeptical until VELMA showed me snippets of footage where the huge alien hunters interacted with the human women. Unless VELMA was curating the videos with bias, everything showed mutual respect, teamwork, and community. I’ll admit, I was flabbergasted.
In another lifetime, I might have fancied myself interested in participating in such an arrangement, but David had been my entire world. My soul mate. No one could replace him, least of all an alien from another galaxy. While I could admit to a healthy curiosity of my colleague’s surprising circumstances, I knew I wouldn’t be part of it.
Book 4 follows the horrors of the Agothe-Fatheza with Joan Wu, our exobotanist who suffers from chronic depression, as she tries to find the will to live on a planet intent on killing her. The ray of hope she needs comes in the form of brave and steady Raxkarax, the only hunter wily enough to enter the Night Corruption and live.
I guess it's the indepth study of each of them that makes this book different. You can't help but feel their self worth and introspection as you read on. You'll feel you know them as friends by the end. Definitely a re-read story.
This is the third of the series and I'm already impatiently waiting for number four.
So completely worth the wait. I enjoyed every minute of it. Love our Hispanic heroine and how it wasn't love at first sight. I love how it was a slow build of trust over time and how she proved to herself she was King of the Hill and didn't have to be rescued. I liked how she actually liked being on Certain Death and wanted to learn more and more about it. I truly can't wait for Book 4 we didn't even get a glimpse at the heroine so I'm excited to see who we get.
About the author.
Ms. Holt has found adventure, solace, escape, and understanding between the pages of books for as long as she can remember, first as a reader, then as an author.
When she’s not frowning at her laptop, she can be found on the shores of Lake Michigan or behind the wheel shuttling kids places or out back making a fire in the fire pit. And more often than not, sharing inappropriate memes on Facebook.
In spite of her love for irreverent humor, she still manages to weave a lot of heart into her novels. Here’s something Esra said in Book 2, Tracked on Predator Planet:
“It kept showing me things about myself,” she said. “The planet and its occupants peeled away layers of my soul. It was uncomfortable. It hurt. But in the end, it revealed my true self.”
Vicky L. Holt
Exclusive for Newsletter Subscribers!
As a special gift of appreciation for my subscribers, I’m writing this novella that takes place in the same universe as Predator Planet, though its characters, setting, and events are far removed from the actual Predator Planet. A standalone alien romance, it has heart, spice, and a guaranteed HEA.