TAU4 by V. J. Waks has a great opening: a man is riding a spaceship down to the high-security Altair Base on the planet Altair. The base is in the middle of a jungle -- a setting almost Gothic in its isolation and claustrophobia -- and holds a terrible secret few in the Homeworld Alliance government know exists.
How can you not want to read on?
The man, Dr. Stephen Weller, is brought in to “adjust” the behavior of the base's lone prisoner and test subject, Gerda Tau. Tau is an artificially created female morph -- part human, part alien, with the ability to transform at will into a terrible hybrid creature. Turns out Tau has been a bad morph, killing her brother and sister morphs, along with several base guards. Dyle Carzon, the ruthless leader and brains behind Altair Base, wants Weller to force Tau to be more docile and comply with the orders of her captors/doctors.
But “Weller” has his own agenda. When Weller's plans fall apart, Tau finds herself marooned on a primordial world and forced to reconcile her violent alien side with the human woman who simply desires love and friendship.
Waks' characters are well drawn and uniquely portrayed. Gerda Tau is a tragic figure. Created as an instrument of death, she realizes she may have to stay lonely forever to protect the people she cares about. “Weller” is the dashing, brave hero whose honor gets him into trouble when he tries to save Tau from the people who would imprison her and use her as a weapon. Dyle Carzon is the evil mastermind behind Tau's creation, and maintains a strong psychological and biological hold on Tau that she struggles to break throughout the book.
TAU4 is written in the style of campfire and fairy tales -- poetic, mostly omniscient, but switching to third person limited for the main characters in some sections. It was well done, but there were times it slowed the action when Waks described in detail the geographical and cultural history of her planets. I found myself skipping those sections to get back to the characters.
One technical glitch in Waks' writing style was that she occasionally summarized conversations or character actions rather than dramatizing them. I would've felt closer to the characters if I had heard their own words through dialogue, or seen their actions in many of the scenes she summarized. However, this did not happen enough to take away from my enjoyment of the book, and I think this was more a symptom of the omniscient writing style rather than an oversight on the author's part.
Overall, I enjoyed TAU4 and would recommend it to those searching for lyrical sci-fi with strong, interesting characters.
The TAU4 series is available on Amazon, and sample chapters are on the author's web site.