Author: Aleksandr Voinov
Cover Artist: Jordan Taylor
Rating: 5.00 of 5 Stars
When the local authorities ask Kyle Juenger to hunt a shape-shifting Glyrinny spy, he can’t refuse. After all, he can use the reward to replace his paralyzed legs with cyberware, and maybe even to return to his home planet. Besides, he hates the morphs-those invasive, brain-eating monstrosities whose weapons cost him his legs.
Kyle’s best lead is the Scorpion, a mercenary ship armed to the teeth. Grimm, the “Scorpion’s” pilot and captain, fascinates Kyle. He’s everything Kyle lost with his legs, and he’s from the same home world. He’s also of the warrior caste-half priest, half savior. But Grimm’s been twisted by life as a merc, and Kyle’s stuck undercover as a criminal on the run.
That doesn’t stop Grimm from coming on to Kyle, or from insisting he’s more than the sum of his past and his useless legs. But Kyle has other concerns-like tracking a dangerous morph who could be wearing anyone’s face. And as if things weren’t complicated enough, Kyle can’t tell if Grimm is part of the solution . . . or part of the problem.
This novella packs imaginative worldbuilding, well-developed characters and a gripping plot into its rather short format. Many elements combine to a seamless whole: the underdog premise, loyalty conflict, alien creatures, shapeshifting, military, space pirates, spies, advanced technology and ancient warrior’s code of honor, all without info-dump and nicely woven into the narrative.
I liked both main characters from the start, Grimm with his cheerful, ruthless determination and Kyle, the prickly, forlorn antihero. Kyle is a broken man, literally; since an assault with an alien weapon severed his spinal cord, his body is dead meat below the waist. The former space pilot walks only thanks to prosthetic braces, his welfare benefits are too little to live, too much to die and his disability renders him unfit for service. Or so he thinks, until he’s sent out on a secret mission retrieving a data thief, an alien from an enemy race with shape-shifting abilities.
Kyle’s target supposedly hides on the Scorpion, a mercenary ship. The ship’s captain, Grimm, seems determined to get into Kyle’s pants. Kyle just can’t believe it. How can a man like Grimm want a cripple like him? But perhaps it’s all a ploy, perhaps Grimm’s motives are much more sinister than sex. If only Kyle weren’t so attracted to Grimm, so very tempted to trust him…
On the surface, this book is a suspenseful sci-fi space adventure with an enemies-to-lovers romantic subplot. It’s gritty and edgy and very entertaining to read, and even if that were all there is to it, it still would’ve been more than four stars for me. But this story was much more than the sum of its parts.
To quote one character, it is all about becoming yourself. Not even about being accepted as what you are, but just the liberty to BE what you are. After all, this is about an alien race of shapeshifters who could be anything, male or female, human or alien, by own choice and independently of what others perceive. And I think this was what the story was about, and what touched me so deeply about it. It rang with a deep longing, with a yearning for freedom that exceeded physical, anatomic and even genetic boundaries. An entertaining story, yes, but also a beautiful fable that drove its point home without being obtrusive. Highly recommended.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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