Review Summary: A complex science fiction adventure on an alien world with wonderfully crafted, likeable characters.
Linguist Elios Campbell is thrilled to be granted flight time in a Colonial Guard fighter jet, until he catches sight of his pilot. Spending time with Sender Kinnison holds even more appeal than the flight itself.
Sender’s desire for other men is forbidden by his faith and his family. He tries to resist his attraction to Elios, who is unlike anyone he’s ever known. When he fails, the incredible sex quickly leads to something deeper, forcing Sender to question his long-held beliefs.
Then, duty calls Sender home to the repressed colony of Themis. Will he be forced to give up a future with Elios to honor the ghosts of his past?
This book was first released in 2008 as Pandora Project: Runaway Star by Torquere Press. It has since been substantially revised and re-released as Escape Velocity by Carina Press.
A year ago Elios had been abandoned by his lover who committed the ultimate sin of marrying the surrogate who bore the child that was intended to be theirs. Since they worked together Elios saw Aric and his family every day, which made it difficult to move on personally or concentrate on his job. He had been working, without much success for years, on a project to decipher sounds from a ghost ship named Pandora which seemed to be broadcasting distress signals. Adding to his frustration was his difficulty in trying to understand the purpose of the messages from the monolithic vessel. Planning had begun for a team that was supposed to go into space, and prospective team members were looking forward to remaining there for years to learn what they could about the Pandora and the strange messages emitting from her. Was the Pandora an empty ship or a trap?
On a short break from his project, Elios visited New McMurdo Base and as a special favour he was taken for a ride in a fighter jet called a Harpy by hot looking Lieutenant Sender Kinnison. After his flight Elios was invited to stick around with Sender and the other pilots, and it was obvious that he and Sender were very attracted to each other. Soon they were hooking up whenever they had a break from work, but Sender was conflicted about his homosexuality and concerned about the reaction of his extremely religious parents if they ever found out that he was having sex with a man. However, that didn’t stop him from falling in love with Elios.
In the meantime Elios had a major breakthrough which could mean that plans to put together the team to visit Pandora might be accelerated. But just when everything was going well there was a setback to his relationship with Sender who was recalled to his home planet, Themis, a very backward culture. His parents had died as a result of an accident and he was now the sole guardian of his sister Katy. Sender believed that it was in Katy’s best interest to resign from the Colonial Guard and raise her on Themis as his parents had requested, which meant that his budding romance with Elios and his career would be over.
There were many things about this book that impressed me, not the least of which was the extreme attention to detail in the world building. Many science fiction novels in our genre do not provide the macro and micro touches of an alien environment including the people and the lifestyle, and this was where Escape Velocity shone. The marked differences between Luna where Sender was stationed and Themis his home colony were well illustrated, and I really admired the little touches and the authors’ imagination in the world building. Science fiction was one of the first genres I read growing up so this book appealed to me on many levels and reminded me of the adventures in space I had enjoyed in the very distant past. 🙂
However, it wasn’t only the environment that impressed me but the characterizations also which were all three dimensional. Sender in particular was sympathetically drawn, and his conflict between his religious upbringing, loyalty and dedication to his parents as well as his love for his little sister were sharply contrasted to his love for his career and Elios. Even though he lived in a completely different world – he didn’t just dismiss his conflicts because it would be convenient to do so and his emotions rang true. The emotional, spiritual and physical issues between him and Elios demonstrated a complex relationship between two strong men. Elios had suffered enormously because his previous lover had betrayed him so he wasn’t open initially to a relationship with Sender, but just when he felt comfortable and ready to take another chance on love he was faced with the terrible choice that was forced on Sender from beyond the grave.
If I had one disappointment it was what I thought might have been a little too much emphasis on Sender’s faith, even though I understood his devotion to his parents and his desire to take care of Katy in the manner his parents had requested.
If you read Runaway Star it would probably still be worth your while to buy Escape Velocity. I found sufficient changes to make reading Escape Velocity satisfying. When I read this book the first time I loved it then and still do.
The authors advised me that they are currently working on Parallax the long awaited sequel and I’m hoping that Macy, Sender’s second in command, will have a love interest in this new book. I’m also hoping for combat in space when the team boards Pandora. 🙂