Danger Gal Friday: Bree “Banzai” Maguire

This week’s Danger Gal profile is on Bree “Banzai” Maguire from Susan Grant’s novel The Legend of Banzai Maguire.

Banzai MaguireLately I’ve been profiling great characters from movies and TV, but I’ve been ignoring some of my favorite novels. Recent conversations about the state of Science Fiction Romance/Futuristics/Romantic Science Fiction/Speculative Romance over at Linnea Sinclair’s group blog (here and here) and the eHarlequin Susan Grant Otherworldly Men forum discussion have reminded me about how some of my favorite books fall into this category. It also describes well what I write.

This is a challenging fusion of subgenres to write, but when done well the sum is better than its parts. These recent discussions outline the challenges in detail, and if you read Romance but don’t mind seeing a SciFi movie once in a while, or read Science Fiction and are looking for characters with a lot of depth and range of human emotion that includes love, then check out the links above. My only point to add is that the Romance and Science Fiction genres are not mutually exclusive. The division is not binary, but really a spectrum of emphasis as the two genres merge. This variety I think in part explains why we’ve got at least four names to describe these types of books: We’re really trying to describe where the emphasis is, on Romance, Science Fiction, or a true integration of the two.

But I’m supposed to be talking about Banzai Maguire. Publishers Weekly has predicted that:

“[T]he ‘action romance’ niche is small but growing, and high-caliber tales like this one will ensure that it continues to do so. A national advertising campaign should put Banzai on many romance readers’ wish lists, but the book also holds crossover appeal for sci-fi/fantasy fans.”

Grant herself points out characteristics of Banzai that also hold true for many other books in this category:

“The Legend of Banzai Maguire doesn’t follow the traditional plot-structure of most romance books. You don’t meet the hero in the first chapters; there are two men for whom the heroine might fall; and the book is most definitely the ‘heroine’s story.’ With boot-shaking excitement and genuine mortal terror, I’m waiting to see what reader reaction will be for this ‘genre-mutt!'”

For these reasons, I’d place The Legend of Banzai Maguire as more Science Fiction than Romance, but the Romance elements are woven tightly into the story, provide a depth it wouldn’t have if removed, and made me care even more about the characters.

So, like all the other Danger Gal Friday’s I’ve profiled, how does Banzai Maguire break stereotypes? First, her profession. Banzai is a U.S.A.F. pilot on a routine mission when she’s shot down and frozen in stasis for 170 years. Grant’s military and airline pilot experience lend a big dose of credibility to this aspect of the story. Banzai finds herself stuck in a sadly familiar misogynistic situation when a high-powered man in a tech-savvy but primitive world finds her interesting enough to want her as a favored concubine. Banzai finds a way out and as one reviewer described, she is “a strong, quick-witted heroine who can get herself out of her own jam, thank you very much (unless she’s stuck in suspended animation).”

Banzai doesn’t have to resort to using her feminine wiles to escape and even rescues U.C.E. SEAL commander Ty Armstrong, the man who set out to free her himself but was captured in the process. Armstrong is a Maguire history buff, infatuated with her disappearance as many have been with Amelia Earhart’s. At first, Armstrong has difficulty seeing the woman behind the legend, but once Ty works past this attitude and he realizes they have common goals, he falls for her.

At the end of the novel, which is the first installment of the 2176 series bookended by Grant, Banzai and Ty are a team out to uncover the ways the U.C.E. maintains its benevolent dictatorship with others who feel as they do. Banzai leaves a potential life of luxury as a world leader’s favored concubine for a much harder life to fight against tyranny.

I enjoyed the Sleeping Beauty twist when Ty revives Banzai from stasis, but wasn’t thrilled with the “mad scientist” angle as the cause. I would have preferred Banzai’s cockpit to have some kind of built-in stasis mechanism that initiated but malfunctioned. This didn’t detract from the novel overall, however, and The Legend of Banzai Maguire is a fine example of the meshing of Science Fiction with Romance, and with a kick-ass heroine to boot.