A guest review by Jenre
Two men. One passion. No choice.
A Men in Space story.
Captain Rick Raine got more than he bargained for when he agreed to take on a brash young man as a crewmember along with contraband cargo. Karl’s spirit intrigues him, but he didn’t sign up for battling privateers, the United Planetary Alliance—or his traitorous body’s response. Especially to a naïve kid who cheats at holo poker and knows a whole lot more than he should.
Deep in the heart of enemy space, Karl’s goal, to rescue the woman who saved him from a life of sexual servitude, is finally close enough to touch. Unfortunately, so is Captain Raine, who becomes erotic poetry in motion when he pilots the ship. Raine’s an honest thief, but Karl can’t trust him with UPA secrets that could get them both killed.
But when Karl signed on for this mission, no one told him to hang on to his heart…
I like sci-fi stories and feel that it’s a much under-represented sub-genre within m/m romance. I was delighted when I discovered that Samhain were starting a new series of m/m sci-fi romance novellas and jumped at the chance to review them. Beyond Meridian is the first of these novellas, all of which are released at the same time. On the whole I liked it but there were a few disappointments, most noticeably with the world-building.
One of the things I particularly like about sci-fi is its ability to transport you to new worlds and its creation of new machines, people, ideas. In many ways a sci-fi novel is limited only by the imagination of the writer and perhaps the laws of physics (although in the latter case, not always!). So when I sat down to read this novella I was looking forward to being taken somewhere completely unexpected. I was slightly disappointed to find that although the book is well written with some unusual ideas, the setting wasn’t as unfamiliar as I was hoping.
The story begins with freight space ship Captain Rick Raine being approached by a young man, Karl, seeking passage to the planet Medlem, which is heavily controlled by the Confederation, a political and military power. As a rule Raine prefers to stick to the border planets between the Confed and the United Planetary Allience or UPA, but when Karl finds some cargo for shipment to a planet near to Medlem, Raine agrees to take him, on the understanding that Karl acts as second Mate on the ship. There’s more to Karl than meets the eye though, as Raine discovers during his journey in close proximity to the young man.
I said earlier that there is a lot that is familiar in this book. Having read and watched a lot of sci-fi books and programmes, there was much in here that I had seen before, especially from the Firefly/Serenity world created by Josh Weedon: The maverick Captain with a good heart, living his life just on the edge of respectability reminded me of Captain Malcolm Reynolds; the seemingly weak hero who hides a great secret and needs safe passage; the much loved space ship; two political and military organisations vying for power; the sanctioned prostitution; and a ship which carries illegal cargo, leading to problems in getting the cargo past the authorities. It’s not completely the same and I am in no way saying that the author has modelled this book on the ideas from that TV programme, just that the world building wasn’t in any way challenging because of its familiarity.
Having said that, there were a number of good ideas in the book. I liked the robots, one of which was shaped as a spider; the descriptions of how Raine flew his spaceship; and the slightly unusual AI of the computer system in the ship – even if I did roll my eyes a little at how convenient it was for getting the men out of tricky situations. I also liked some of the political ideas based around a system of slavery and how humans had their rights removed and could be traded like cattle, and the way that slaves are also used in a hierarchical way, with some parts of slavery being more desirable than others – again, this is a not a new idea, but it worked well within the context of the book.
The interaction between the two men was another part of the book which worked well. There was a lot of banter between them as well as a slight antagonism, fuelled, of course, by sexual attraction. I liked that Karl, as the seemingly weaker man, often came out the winner in arguments and other situations , showing a resourcefulness and inner strength to his character. The way that the men developed a mutual respect for each other before they acted on their growing lust meant that when they did have sex there was a romantic feel to it as well as the eroticism.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a good, quick read, written well, with clear explanations about the world building and setting. I never felt confused or unsure as to what was happening which can be the case in some overly complicated sci-fi books and I liked the characters. Ultimately though this book may not appeal to die hard sci-fi fans who are looking for something new and exciting in the genre, because that isn’t the case with this book. It may appeal though to those who don’t usually read sci-fi and are looking for an accessible book in the sub-genre, and it’s to those readers that I would recommend Beyond Meridian.