Title: The Company Man (Red Dragon #1)
Author: Becky Black
Cover Artist: Scott Carpenter
Publisher: Loose Id
Buy Links: Amazon ; Publisher
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: Novel (257 pages)
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by LenaLena
Review Summary: A paint-by-numbers scifi romance for people that like all their heroes to be good, honest men.
Once the pride of the Outer Spiral Trading Company’s fleet, The Red Dragon has been neglected and fallen from its old glory. It’s a ship in need of love – and a new captain.
Alyn Evans is a man in need of a new challenge. He’s an ex-warship captain and peace has put him out of a job. A man of his experience should have no trouble commanding a merchant ship…he thinks. But of all the challenges he faces on his first trip out, the hardest one is keeping his hands off his gorgeous and fascinating company rep, Jarvez Kashari.
Jarvez Kashari is a man with a plan. He’s determined to make a name as the company’s best trader and thinks reviving the fortunes of the Red Dragon is the perfect opportunity to prove himself. Jarvez travels light, sacrificing personal relationships to focus on his ambitions – until he meets Alyn Evans. Falling in love was not part of the plan.
It’s four months to Earth. Four months for Alyn to juggle passengers, prisoners, suspicious officers, a resentful crew and the intensifying relationship with Jarvez. Four months in space with a traitor aboard…
There is nothing very wrong with The Company Man, but there is nothing exciting about it either. It’s a paint-by-numbers scifi romance and if you’ve haven’t already read over a hundred of those, it may be quite a good one. For me, this one is completely forgettable. The scifi story is pretty standard: Former Military Captain gets rustbucket spaceship and sullen crew and wins over crew and makes spaceship the pride of the fleet by means of his impeccable principles, conquering the few rotten apple crew members that are irredeemable and grabbing the price. Romantically it is pretty standard too: Two guys are thrown together after what they though was a one off anonymous sexual encounter, swear to never do it again because of reasons, they keep doing it so then they swear to be discreet and to not get emotionally involved. Emotions follow and discretion is screwed.
With a run of the mill story like this, the only thing that can set it apart is brilliant writing and attention to details. Neither of those are particularly prevalent. It’s not badly written or anything, it just isn’t anything special. The world-building is anemic. We are far enough into the future that the human race has colonized at least several planets and can travel to one in two months. But we get no theories on how this kind of interstellar travel is accomplished, we barely get any new technology (there are force fields, artificial gravity and holoscreens-with-breezes, which are pretty much the scifi technology version of stock photography) and apparently they haven’t even invented hot tubs yet that are easier to fuck in. Nothing seems to exist beyond the walls of the places the characters visit. There is no sense of a universe beyond the confines of the immediate story. I am not even sure whether this universe has aliens or not, or who the military is fighting against.
The main characters are likable enough. In fact, they are so likable they’re boring. If either one of them has any flaws, I didn’t see them. I initially had some hopes for Jarvez (Alyn was a lost cause from the start, he obviously was the blond golden boy who was a decent man through and through), but no, besides one tiny teenage tantrum, Jarvez was pretty much all decent too. They each have an epiphany at some point, realizing ‘how complicated the other man is’. But honestly, these guys are about as complicated as a box of cereal. Smooth and square on the outside, crunchy and sweet on the inside. Even Han Solo is a more complex character.
There are some weird inconsistencies, like the sex scene where Jarvez muses that ‘Alyn probably wouldn’t be as rough with him as Jarvez wanted‘ only to remark less than a paragraph later that ‘he was lucky Alyn hadn’t jumped him and pounded him raw‘. Make up your mind, dude, you want it rough or not? Other scenes have unnecessary repetitions in them, like the one where Jarvez meets Alyn’s parents and Alyn reminds hims twice beforehand he should ‘try to charm them like you do the passengers on the ship‘, only to tell him in the middle of dinner ‘you’re charming them like you do the passengers on the ship‘. Just in case we miss anything that isn’t spelled out for us, I guess. Nothing that better betas and editors can’t fix next time around, really. Whether they can fix the been-there-done-that feel of books like these remains to be seen.