I did enjoy AFTERBURN by S.L. Viehl though it took a while for me to become involved in the story. I love books with alien and human interaction but it's just harder for me to get involved when the aliens are aquatic, especially for interspecies romance. My imagination has trouble stretching quite that far. But that said, the main romance is actually between members of two different aquatic species.
AFTERBURN continues the story of the Allied League of Worlds and the elite Bio Rescue unit of military-enhanced SEAL pilots. It begins within months of the previous book in the series, BIO RESCUE, and has all the same characters--and then some!--so I'd recommend reading them in order. Viehl does remind you of previous events but there is so much going on, having read BIO RESCUE will help in keeping track of the plot.
The main character is the Burn, cousin to Dair (heroine of the last book). Like her, Burn is an intelligent, orca-like being--a Zangian--bioengineered so he can spend time out of water and learn to be a fighter pilot. The process somehow aged him rapidly to adulthood, but his family still doesn't take him seriously. The heroine, Liana, is of an alien aquatic species called the Ylyd and is coming to Burn's planet to take part in a crucial peace summit. She is also marked as the future Queen of her people. A dramatic rescue on a spaceship brings Burn and Liana together and sparks an attraction, though circumstances don't leave them together much.
There is a lot going on in this book between people trying to disrupt the peace summit and an investigation into a possible environmental problem with a shark-like species venturing out of its normal habitat, not to mention the relationships to keep straight, because there are actually four romances in AFTERBURN.
You get to see 1) how Dair and Onkar from BIO RESCUE are doing, 2) that Dair's human stepmother Ana is at a critical point in her relationship with Dair's Zangian father, 3) Burn and Liana's growing friendship or more, and 4) love between a human and an Omorr. Almost all of these were hard to believe for me due to physical or cultural differences between the species, and I'm afraid I enjoyed the main romance least of all because of the speed of it in the limited time the couple had to get to know each other. It was still interesting however. AFTERBURN was definitely an unusual and interesting read though a little hard to follow. It's probably not for everyone but I moderately recommend it.--Linda (31 Aug 05)***
I read AFTERBURN recently, but I had a somewhat different reaction from you, Linda. Even though I hadn't read BIO RESCUE, I was only slightly lost at first. Overall, I found the story entertaining, the characters all engaging, and the themes of the story (tolerance, mainly) pleasing. The one romance I had a difficult time wrapping my head around was the one between the human scientist and her orca-like husband. The resolution to that was disconcerting as well. And you're right, the emotional payoff for Burn and Liana's love victory (I just made up "love victory") was weakened by Viehl not taking the time to invest more time into their story arc. Still, this was a fast, easy read, and I recommend it.--Preeti (31 Aug 05)