A four book Speculative Fiction
series by Wen Spencer
, consisting of Alien Taste
, Tainted Trail
, Bitter Waters
, and Dog Warrior
The series stars the titular Ukiah Oregon, a young man whose adoptive mothers found him running wild with a pack of wolves near the town of Ukiah, Oregon. His Mom Jo, a biologist, and Mom Lara, an astrophysicist, took him home with them to Pittsburgh, and marveled at his ability to learn to function in society, far removed from what any feral child ever known managed. They hired Max Bennett
to try to find his birth family, but Bennett's search was fruitless, turning up nothing but a news article from the 1930s about a missing Cayuse child named Magic Boy, who couldn't possibly be the same preadolescent who was caught in a live trap in the late 1990s.
Bennett discovered that Ukiah had inhumanly uncanny senses, and began bringing him along as a tracker in missing persons cases. After Ukiah saved his life from a serial killer, Bennett made him a full partner in the detective agency. The two are called in to search for the missing Dr Janet Haze, who vanished from her home leaving the bodies of three roommates, believed kidnapped.
Aided by Special Agent Indigo Zheng, called in due to the national security implications of Haze's work, Ukiah begins a hunt that will lead deep down the rabbit hole. He learns that Haze's disappearance and death are only a tiny piece of a secret war between a savage band of outlaw bikers calling themselves the Pack and a mysterious group known only as the Ontongard. Ukiah finds more and more links between his own history and the two warring groups, and evidence that their origins are not on this Earth. The rootless orphan eventually learns that he has not one but two families besides the one that raised him, and that one of them is not human.
This series provides examples of:
- Alien Blood: A special case of Bizarre Alien Biology, below, Ontongard/Pack blood will coalesce into mice, insects, or other small animals and flee. The original owner, or another member of the same species, can later reabsorb the animal, gaining memories stored therein.
- All Bikers Are Hells Angels: Played straight with the Pack and their human hangers-on. Many characters mention that most bikers are simple motorcycle enthusiasts, but as soon as the Pack are mentioned, this trope comes on full force.
- Animal Theme Naming: The subgroups of the Pack are the Dog Warriors, the Demon Curs, the Devil Dogs, the Hell Hounds and the Wild Wolves.
- Bandit Clan: The Pack form a peculiar example. They're not related in the ordinary sense, but under the skin they're all the same creature.
- Badass Biker: Ukiah and Indigo both favor powerful motorcycles for transportation, and the Pack all qualify by default.
- Battle Couple: Ukiah and Indigo, Max and Sam, Atticus and Ru, Rennie and Helena. Ukiah's moms are the only couple in the series who aren't.
- Big Eater: It helps with the healing.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: The Ontongard/Pack reproduce by taking over and duplicating other life forms. They store short term memory in their blood and long term memory in their DNA, and every cell is a pluripotent stem cell that can turn into any other kind of cell at the drop of a hat. Severed pieces can turn into any animal of the right mass that the creature has touched before and flee or keep fighting.
- Clones Are People Too: Ukiah immediately considers Kitanning a new person and thereafter Kit is treated by everyone as his son. Likewise, Atticus and Ukiah are different people, and neither is entirely the same person as Magic Boy, their deceased progenitor)
- Dark and Troubled Past: Ukiah was abandoned in the woods to run with the wolves before that, Magic Boy was brutally murdered, eventually creating Ukiah and Atticus. Atticus Steele was another foundling. The foster parents who would have adopted him died in a car wreck and he was passed from foster home to foster home throughout his childhood. Max Bennett's wife disappeared mysteriously while he was on a speaking tour, only to turn up at the bottom of a lake from a car wreck.
- Dead Man Walking: Almost directly name-checked in the last book, when the leader of an outlaw biker gang familiar with the Pack sees Ukiah looking beaten and bruised. "Looks like someone gave the Cub a going over. Who is that dead man?"
- Genetic Memory: The Ontongard and the Pack are both created with a complete set of memories from every prior member of that lineage.
- Good Thing You Can Heal: Ukiah and Atticus, once aware that they heal from anything and come Back from the Dead, constantly go around Taking the Bullet and generally more risks than their human partners. Atticus and Ru's boss have noticed that Atticus is constantly getting injured and Ru isn't and assumes Ru is a coward.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Ukiah (and by extension Atticus and Kitanning) are Breeders, an Ontongard/Human hybrid whose offspring are perfect hosts.
- Has Two Mommies: Ukiah and Callie are both raised by a lesbian couple.
- Healing Factor: Ukiah heals much faster and more completely than a human, even if he's killed, although fire will prevent this, as will some poisons. The same is true for the Pack, but moreso, while the Ontongard can put themselves back together in seconds from a shotgun to the face.
- Hive Mind: The Ontongard are telepathic with each other instance of each other, and think and act as a single entity. Those instances out of telepathic range will act independently, but do not think of themselves as individuals even in this case.
- Homosexual Reproduction: Jo and Lara's second child, Callie, is biologically related to both of them with the aid of a fertility clinic.
- Human Aliens: Most of the Ontongard and Pack are indistinguishable from humans unless they're injured, because they are a virus that took over a human, and they look like their host.
- Human Outside, Alien Inside: The Pack and Ontongard (as well as the titular character) look human to all casual inspections, but the fact that their spilled blood/removed flesh turns into animals and runs away kind of gives the game away to any kind of medical inspection.
- Humanoid Aliens: Hex and Prime, the only survivors of the initial Ontongard invasion force, had bodies that looked largely human, but with all black eyes, strangely textured hair, and slightly odd proportions.
- Hyper Awareness: Ukiah and Atticus.
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: The Core-less Temple of New Reason captures Ukiah and can't tell if he's Ontongard or something they regard as holy - so they lock him in a small room with a kitten. "Demons" captured this way quickly kill and eat such kittens. Ukiah figures this test out and is carefully nice to the kitten.
- If It's You, It's Okay: Atticus Steele believes himself to be heterosexual for most of his life, but his love for his male roommate and later partner Hikaru Takahasi is strong enough to overcome that when Ru expresses an interest, and the two are a firm couple.
- Interspecies Romance: Technically, Ukiah's relationship with Indigo and Atticus' relationship with Ru are this, as Ontongard Breeders aren't technically human.
- In-Series Nickname: Indigo is called "The FBI" as a short form of "Frigid Bitch of Ice" by law enforcement, though letting her know that is a very bad idea. The Pack, talking about her to Ukiah, call her "Your lady of steel."
- Knight Templar: The Temple Of New Reason, although their founder and first leader Core is more of a Card-Carrying Villain.
- Let's You and Him Fight: Dog Warrior opens with Atticus Steele (undercover DEA agent) finding his long lost brother unconscious in a car trunk wearing a Dog Warriors jacket. Research shows that every known member of the gang is on the FBI Most Wanted list, and he shuns his newfound family and works against them. Meanwhile, Ukiah sees that his long-lost brother seems to be a ruthless drug dealer, and suspicion leads the Pack to put Atticus through a harsh initiation, confirming their criminality and enmity in his mind.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: The Pack/Ontongard are the extreme regenerating version of this, with the added bonus that if they're dismembered the severed parts will turn into animals and regroup to reform the original body. Fire, acid, and certain poisons will keep them down, though.
- Not Growing Up Sucks: Magic Boy stays physically twelve for over 200 years, and is never granted a vision in his manhood rite. He is left watching his siblings, cousins, and their descendants grow, marry, and have children of their own, while he was adopted by the eldest son of that generation and lived as a child in his household.
- Non-Idle Rich: Max Bennett is a multimillionaire from the software startup he took public in the late 90s. He now works as a Private Detective specializing in missing persons, in memory of his wife who went missing mysteriously while he was traveling.
- Papa Wolf: Max and Rennie (and by extension the rest of the Dog Warriors) are this for Ukiah, and either one will kill without hesitation to protect him (on several occasions they nearly kill each other, when using different values for 'protect'). In Rennie's case it's literal, due to the Pack's wolfen nature. Also Ukiah for Kitanning.
- Private Detective: Max runs the Bennett Detective Agency, which he created mostly to give him a justification to look for missing persons in memory of his dead wife. Ukiah is also a licensed PI, as is Bennett's later love interest Sam Killington.
- Photographic Memory: Ukiah and Atticus have this, as do the Pack and Ontongard.
- Raised by Wolves: Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Ukiah was raised by wolves.
- Really 700 Years Old: Ukiah/Atticus/ Magic Boy are really ~300 years old, while Rennie Shaw and several other Pack members are well into their second century.
- Sanity Has Advantages: Insanity may not be exactly the right term. The Ontongard of are Hive Mind aliens that think of themselves on a scale smaller than humans can see; they take multicellular forms but if those are torn apart they form into smaller animals. Ukiah, being descended of a mutant Ontongard who kept individuality, escapes "one" human-shaped mass of them by going over a cliff and catching a branch near the edge. The Ontongard mass follows, and some parts of it grab for the branch, some try to backpedal, so it falls. Individuality does have its perks, Ukiah thinks.
- Scarily Competent Tracker:Due to his superhuman senses and wilderness experience, Ukiah is this. Max tells a police officer that he has never failed to find someone who was on foot, and nearly 50% of the time has successfully tracked people who drove off in a car, on the road.
- Super Senses: Ukiah has eyes like a hawk, a nose like a bloodhound, and can sequence DNA by touching someone.
- Transferable Memory: The Pack and Ontongard can both transfer memories between themselves by drawing out blood and handing the resulting animal to another member to be absorbed. Pack memories aren't happy about being handed to Ukiah but can be transferred. If there's time, they can pass on memories without blood, psychically.
- Twenty Minutes In The Future
- The Virus: The Ontongard are an alien virus that infects anything living. Almost all hosts die, but the survivors become part of a Hive Mind, and become part of the Ontongard's purpose. The Pack propagate themselves the same way, but allow the victim to retain their own identity and personality.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Pack, although some cross over into Knight Templar territory. They routinely commit murder, theft, arson, and a myriad of other crimes in their endless war. They're still good guys, though.
- Some members of the Temple of New Reason lean this way, despite their monstrous leader. The Core-less version seen in Dog Warrior shows this the most, though it's still extremely mislead.