Title: Expedition 63 (Box Set including “Dusk”, “Dark” and “Dawn”)
Author: T.A. Creech
Publisher: JMC Books LLC
Release Date: December 22, 2018
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Page Count: 345 (total)
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.40 stars out of 5
All three stories in T.A. Creech’s best-selling M/M sci-fi romance series, Expedition 63, together in one box set!
When contact is lost with Mission Control, Commander John Dennington isn’t overly concerned. Such hiccups in communication are common. The first inkling of the larger problem occurs when he sees the very shape of the world change before his eyes.
Contains the stories:
Book 1: Dusk: John must ease his crew into a new mission and keep the Station together by any means necessary. The crew jeopardizes their chances by fighting his orders, but Jason Weiss, his mission specialist and the light of his life, makes John’s situation more bearable. The smallest malfunction to Station or crew would spell the end for six astronauts trapped high above a ruined Earth. It’s their mission to carry on. Random chance of the universe hasn’t operated in their favor so far, but John is determined to see them all safely home.
Book 2: Dark: As the stranded inhabitants of the Space Station mark the opening of their second year since the world ended, Saito Naotatsu is determined to shake off some part of the grief infecting their temporary home. Maybe find a little happiness, too, with his best friend and communications specialist, Turlach Quinn. The situation explodes when Turlach finds his attraction to Saito confusing and relentless. At every turn, it seems Saito is there to break his control. With the Station falling apart around their ears and the crew breathing down his neck, Turlach finally has enough. Problems keep piling up. The crew is weary and waiting. Earth is a dark shadow of what it once was. Will they ever get home? Is there even anything left to go home to?
Book 3: Dawn: Yakecen Sinohui can see the end in sight for the stranded crew of the Station. Each breath is a countdown until they’re able to return to Earth, until the poison clouds have cleared enough to leave. Though it’s a bad idea, Yakecen is drawn into the orbit of their resident biologist, Eli, someone who has kept Yakecen’s head in the game with his sunny presence. The universe, however, has one last middle finger to give the weary crew. Eli Palamo doesn’t object to Yakecen’s covert attention. He’s pined for his friend from the first moment they met, and isolation has strengthened their bond as the hardships forced them lean on each other completely. Yakecen is all he’s ever wanted. Nothing will be enough to tear them apart, if Eli has anything to say about it, not even Yakecen’s own demons. Definitely not the end of their disastrous mission and their fight for survival.
Three (quite short) novels in one box set—that can either be a boon or a punishment, depending on the books’ quality. In the case of “Expedition 63”, you need to like (soft) science fiction and a story that is set in a unique place with a limited number of characters. If you tick off these two boxes, you’ll enjoy the series as much as I did. Be warned, however—you need to make one major concession, otherwise you’ll probably be annoyed (see below).
So. T.A. Creech crams us in a very believable way into the ISS, the International Space Station orbiting around our good old world since 2011 (the planning phase started as early as 1985, though). The staff consists of Commander John Dennington, a former US Air Force officer; his second, Jason Weiss; two biologists, one of them crisp and reserved Saito Naotatsu (a Japanese), the other ever-optimistic Eli Palamo (of Samoan origin); and two engineers, broad-chested, boisterous Irishman Turlach Quinn and monosyllabic Yakecen Sinohui, a native American (or Amerindian, as we’d call them over here in Europe—my apologies if this is not the PC term). The three-novel series starts with a bang that sets the atmosphere, the pace, the whole plot in fact: the station seems unable to contact Ground Control. At first everyone believes it’s just a minor mishap they can repair in no time. But soon they realize that… down there, everybody’s probably dead by now. For they discover the disastrous signs of global nuclear war having broken out all over the world. Their first and most urgent task is now to ensure they can survive on their own in their forbidding, hostile environment and wait for most of the fallout-clouds to disappear so that “going back home” becomes an option again. They settle for a three-year hold-out, and that’s roughly the period of time the books cover.
So far, so good, so more or less plausible. Here comes the point I mentioned above where you as a reader must be prepared to swallow an exceedingly far-fetched premise you might have guessed at already. For we’re talking about gay romance novels, right? Simply do the maths, then—what have we got? Six male members. Three books. Yep, there’s a nice, new pairing per book, each of the stories written from the two POVs of the respective main characters. You might shake your head in disbelief, and frankly, you should because six guys hired by NASA, all of them interested in other guys? Not even remotely likely to ever happen. If that premise is too problematic for you, I’m not sure you will finish books #2 and #3. If, on the other hand, you are willing to accept those things as they are (after some mini-reluctance, I did), you will enjoy the story. Promised! In any case, have a go at book #1, which is somewhat apart because we discover rather quickly that Commander John and his second, Jason, have been an item since before their mission started. They just haven’t told anybody (I mean, duh! NASA? Career? Openly gay lovers? Come on!). Now, what with the earth gone to hell and back, they can live out their love in full sight of their colleagues, who are sufficiently open-minded to not frown upon their romance. No, book #1 is no challenge in terms of probability. But in book #2, we learn that Saito is secretly pining for ultra-straight Turlach, who in turn finds himself strangely attracted to the handsome Asian. And in book #3, the remaining two crew-members Eli and Yakecen try to come to terms with their mutual attraction as well.
T.A. Creech has done a good job with these three books. They are well-paced, well-written and, I gather, well researched. An engineer might perhaps scowl at some of the repair works the author describes, but I’m simply too hopeless in that area to even question any of them; they looked like “the real thing” to me, with loads of technical-sounding terms and jargon that never become annoying as they only serve the plot. The first romance is sweet and comes with a thrilling peak where I held my breath lest I trigger off some major disaster. The second deals with Turlach trying to accept his growing feelings for his Japanese mate, a sort of coming-out story. In the third, Eli has to be patient because Yakecen has some major closeness-issues he needs to overcome. We get nice character developments throughout the three books, we get heart-warming friendships between all the guys, we get friends-to-lovers twice, and we get a whole lot of well-told inner struggles, but really cute and tender moments as well. Plus, the odd sizzling scene, made all the hotter because, well, crammed space, uniforms, fit dudes who haven’t shagged for months—what more do you need? All six guys are hunks, and we get one for everybody’s tastes (John, an Afro-American; Jason, the guy with the all-Californian surfer-dude looks; Turlach, the hulking Irishman with his meaty hands and his freckles; slender and smooth-skinned Saito with the silky, black hair; constantly smiling, tattooed Eli; taciturn Yakecen with his long, dark ponytail). The pleasant read is just somewhat marred by sloppy editing and proof-reading, which should really be redone and improved (unwarranted present tenses, words missing, typos such as “he was loathed to” instead of “he was loath to”, and, alas, many more). Apart from that, I really recommend the books.
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