2001’s Alien Taste is the first volume in Wen Spencer’s Ukiah Oregon series.
It has been just six years after Ukiah Oregon was found, alone and feral, in the Oregon forest. Once a speechless wolf-child, he has grown into a seemingly normal young man, albeit one with a peculiar gift for tracking. It is a skill his mentor, PI Max Bennet, puts to good use
Tasked with a search for Doctor Janet Haze, an apparent kidnapping victim whose three roommates have been brutally murdered, Ukiah finds himself face to face with the woman he set out to rescue. She has not been kidnapped; in fact, she is the one who hacked her roommates to pieces. Ukiah barely survives his confrontation with Haze. She does not.
Haze was definitely a murderer … but it seems that she was also a victim, driven mad by an insidious attack. An attack, Ukiah will discover, that is intimately connected to the mystery of his own origin.
Briefly incapacitated after encountering Haze, Ukiah is only dimly aware of several strangers who were also hunting Haze. Oddly enough, the strangers seem to recognize Ukiah. He has no idea who his parents were or what his origins might have been, but the hunters stalking him appear to know a lot more than he does.
The hunters are careless enough to let themselves be photographed while stalking Haze and Ukiah. They are identified as members of the Pack, an organization the FBI believes to be an unusually well run criminal organization. We soon learn that the Pack are soldiers rather than criminals, soldiers in a vast, undeclared war with extra-terrestrial abominations. The Pack was created by an alien rebel, one who cast his lot with the humans in a fight against the covert invaders.
Ukiah is unknowingly one of the invaders. He is a monster whom even the Pack fears.
This is an odd genre hybrid. Spencer uses tropes I know from paranormal romance/urban fantasy, but the McGuffin driving the plot is straight out of science fiction, not fantasy. Ukiah 1 may be yet another Very Special Person with Very Special Powers, but he does not draw his abilities from Faerie or the Dark Arts but an alien heritage. He’s closer to the inhabitants of Innsmouth than he is to the people in Bon Temps .
This novel reminds me of Stross’ Family Trade series, in that the author is trying to make various implausible genre conventions more plausible. How to have a human-alien hybrid? Start with aliens who are basically The Thing, adept at remaking other organisms over in their image. How to avoid having the invaders quickly convert the whole ecosystem (à la War Against the Chtorr )? Make the process of assimilating new species a very lossy one, thanks to human immune systems: conversion kills more often than it works.
Spencer eschews the usual drama-friendly approach of having the government refuse to believe that Aliens are Among Us. Unfortunately, the nature of the enemy means that due process is not in the cards. Putting captured aliens in a prison would just let them eat the other prisoners. I cannot see how this can go in any direction that is not deeply unpleasant, but perhaps the author will surprise me.
The book raises an interesting question; are genetics destiny 2? Is Ukiah one of the good guys because he happens to be the progeny of the one good aliens? Or is he good because of the beings who raised him? Presumably this is answered in later books.
1: I know some people are puzzled as to why Ukiah Oregon did not take his moms’ surnames when they adopted him. Well, not all adoptees do. That said, the people who named him seem to have been pretty darn lazy and it is lucky for Ukiah he was found near Ukiah, Oregon, and not, say, Dildo, Newfoundland.
2: That question made me realize what this book reminded me of: a British TV show called Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.