Title: Sub Zero (An ESTO Universe Novel)
Author: Angel Martinez
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: Amber Allure
Buy Link: Amazon
Genre: Science Fiction / Futuristic / Interracial / Multicultural M/M
Length: Extended Novella (40k words)
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by jeayci
Review Summary: This is a heartwarming tale of adventure, of coming back alive and learning to love again, wonderful friendships, and, of course, rescuing the world in the process.
Blurb: Major Aren Dalsgaard’s newest assignment is to investigate a series of murders on the frigid planet, Drass, where relations between the Treaty settlers and the natives have taken a nasty turn. A linguist and trained xenologist, Aren should be the ideal Special Investigations officer for the assignment. So what’s the problem? Drass is where he died, more than a hundred and twenty years ago.
Sent by his family to the chigyel city, Nyachung finds himself confronted with a murder charge, racial prejudice, and a cryo-revived investigator who claims to be a hero from his grandmother’s generation. Major Dalsgaard could be crazy or he could be lying, but the sincerity in his spring-green eyes disturbs Nyachung more than anything else he encounters in the foreigners’ city.
Now, confronted with mysterious black boxes and a beautiful yet evasive young man as a prime suspect, Aren hopes he can solve the murders before his fierce sexual attraction to Nyachung gets the better of him…
Review: Angel Martinez does SF/F very well, as I discovered with Gravitational Attraction. That was the sole reason I read this book. I didn’t find the blurb or the cover particularly appealing, but I figured it was worth a try since I’d loved that one so much. This is a worthy addition to that universe, and I’m so glad I took the chance.
It might seem strange to describe a futuristic SF/F novel as “real” but that’s exactly what this story was. The world-building and descriptions gave me a strong sense of place, and I so completely felt what the characters were that it was as if I were right there with them. Their actions and reactions were believable and made sense in context.
I ached with Aren’s grief for his lost love and his difficulties adapting to a world much changed in the hundred years since he’d last lived in it. He had been revived from cryogenesis when we met him, but during the course of the story we watched him thaw and truly return to life. I particularly enjoyed seeing that process. His attraction to Nyachung was almost immediate, and mutual, but there was no insta-love here. They got to know each other and care for each other, and Nya wisely gave Aren the space to grieve. They only became lovers after Aren finally released the bulk of his grief.
There was one moment when I thought Aren’s transition from old love to new was perhaps a bit too rapid, and I paused to reread and consider. I ultimately decided that it was believable that Aren would feel that way in that moment, even if the actual process took a bit more time to be truly complete. Having concluded that even that was, after all, realistic and believable, I happily picked up the thread of the story and continued on. Later I realized the time-frame of the story was longer than I’d realized, so that may also not have been as sudden as it seemed to me.
It took me a little while to warm up to Nyachung, as the initial description made him sound almost childlike; hardly hero material. But I quickly realized he was out of his element and handling himself well under the circumstances, and in fact had great strength, wisdom, and maturity. I came to really respect and adore him, and I admired how he was an active part of the resolution at the end when it could have been easy to let Aren ride to the rescue alone.
There were really three main characters in this story. In addition to Aren and Nyachung, Emma is an awesome friend and sidekick. We get each of their POVs at times, and I thought it worked really well because Emma provided an outside perspective the two guys involved obviously lacked. It made for an easy way to see that Aren, in particular, was feeling more or differently than he might realize. Those who object to the frequent depiction in m/m of women as horrible creatures will find Emma a refreshing exception. She is extremely capable, as well as compassionate, wise, and has a great sense of humor.
I hope Angel Martinez plans to write more books in this universe, as I’m very eager to spend more time there. Reading this made me want to reread Gravitational Attraction. And then I can imagine wanting to read this again. If I’m lucky, by the time I’ve done that she’ll have a new addition to the series. Pretty please with no synthetic sugar on top? (Read this story and that last bit will make perfect sense, I promise)