Author: John Wiltshire
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Artist: Molly Anon
Rating: 4.25 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 05/20/2016
Length: Novella (~ 15K-50K)
Genre: Apocalyptic/dystopian, Crime Fiction, Fiction, Gay, Gay Romance, Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction
It isn’t easy being the head of security on an inter-planetary transport ship between Earth and Titan. Lieutenant Cal Hartland is not impressed when he’s tasked to oversee the reintegration to Earth of mind readers who have been banished to a colony on Mars. Despite the fitting of cortical inhibitors, Cal is suspicious that the Minders are still dangerous, a fear that becomes personal when he has a startling emotional reaction to the leader of the small group, Commander Zero. Just as Cal is struggling to accept his feelings for the Martian, a mutilated body is discovered in the bowels of the ship. Why does Zero appear to know more about this terrible murder than any neutralised mind reader should? Trapped in the endless darkness of space and with the body count growing, can Cal trust anything about the enigmatic and beautiful Zero?
Well now, that’s how you begin a story. I was pulled in right away, made curious about the circumstances of the human race in this future, and certainly about Cal and what he’s doing on this ship, where he’s been, and what challenges lie ahead for him. The world building was immediately efficient, including the setting up of the historical context for the current mission on which Cal and the crew are serving. I like that. I already had a sense about Cal, the state and locations of the human race (and others?) in what feels to be a distant future, if only as defined by time. In most other terms, humans have not changed a lot some few hundred years from now.
It was evident Cal was soon to be confronted by thoughts he hadn’t anticipated in relation to this mission, and feelings he never would have predicted. Life’s complicated, yo. Little did I know how much more complicated they were to become as I continued reading.
Zero is… I don’t think I can go too deeply into a description without giving too much away. He’s sarcastic, intelligent, driven, and aware that he doesn’t know everything. Then again, he doesn’t really need to in order for his plan to work. Yup, he’s got a plan. Little did he know the detours said plan would take en route to his destination.
I so want to include samples of Wiltshire’s writing, as it’s as engaging as ever, but so many passages would again give too much of the game away. If you’ve read other Wiltshire books, you know what you’re in for with his storytelling. If you haven’t, this is a fantastic long-ish novella with which to begin your experience.
This is an intense psychological murder mystery. Cal and Zero are coming at the entire situation, all of the moving parts, and all of the players from vastly different viewpoints, each holding knowledge to which the other would have quite a strong reaction if shared. The tension is high, folks, and it’s quite a ride watching these two come together in more ways than one.
Amidst the nearly continuous unraveling of this mystery under taut circumstances, we do get some humor, most of the time thanks to Zero. Cal has his moments, too, though. For Zero, though, some are a result of an almost innocent streak that runs through him thanks to his living conditions prior to this incident. He also doesn’t hide it, hence the humor.
I feel like I wanted to know more about Cal and Zero, especially the latter. We learn a bit about his life up to this point but almost not enough to warrant such strong, resolute convictions. I had to push myself here and there to fully believe his extreme desire to escape the dusty orb that is Mars. On the flip side, with even fewer words, we get unmistakable understanding of a part of Cal’s past, even if a bit dreamlike in presentation. This does lead to…
Magic peen alert. Jussayin’.
That ending, though! Wow! Exciting, full of energy, and quite clever. I enjoyed this murder mystery in spaaaaaaaaaaaaaace and am curious to find out how Cal and Zero and the rest of the gang are doing, including the other Minders.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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