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 PI
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.
- Bi the Way: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Interspecies Romance: Technically, Ukiah's relationship with Indigo and Atticus' relationship with Ru are this, as Ontongard Breeders aren't technically human.
- 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.
- Nurture Over Nature
- 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.
- Raised by Wolves: Pretty much that. Ukiah was raised by wolves.
- 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.
- Theme Naming: The subgroups of the Pack have names like the Dog Warriors, the Demon Curs, and the Devil Dogs.
- 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.