Earlier today, this cool info-sheet on exploring positive portrayals of Islam in sci-fi found its way into my inbox from Stant Litore. It’s just the sort of thing guaranteed to get my attention on any normal day, but given that today the people of my city have been out marching in protest of the presidents immigration ban, I think it’s especially timely too. I imagine that wasn’t accidental.
I downloaded the free anthology and Stant’s three free short stories about Islamic space travelers. The latter of which is what I’ll review here.
Wow, color me impressed. All three of these stories were powerful and wonderfully written, despite not one of them being 30 pages long (17, 17 & 29). Despite being short, each felt complete and satisfying, which is rarely a comment I make about short stories. In fact, not feeling complete is my most common criticism of shorts.
They also each managed a different emotional wallop, putting the characters in the same circumstances, but in very different situations. The first, my favorite was fearful and desperate. It almost felt like sci-fi/horror. The second was sad and contemplative and the third started contentedly but ended back in horror/sci-fi land, with a certain pragmatic acceptance of the situation. I thought it was cool, too, the way it curved back to intersect with the first.
I appreciated the way gender was flexible, given the means of space travel. I also loved the way Islam and the countries of origin played into the stories, important to the characters but not at all encroaching on the plot. All in all, well worth reading but don’t go in expecting happy endings.
Edit: Thank you, Naz, for the reminder about the #ReadDiverse2017 word counts. I had admittedly forgotten; read it in the beginning and forgotten since then. I prompted me to think a little more deeply about this review.
I won a paperback copy of Vick’s Vultures, by Scott Warren, through Goodreads.
In the far future, alien technology captured by the Union Earth Privateers has fueled Earth’s tenuous expansion from a single planet to a handful of systems across the Orion Spur.
Victoria Marin, captain of the U.E. Condor, and her crew of Vultures have been running dry for months. In danger of losing her command and her credibility if she can’t locate fresh salvage, she locks onto the distress signal of an alien ship in hopes of valuable cargo. What she finds instead is First Prince Tavram, the heir apparent to one of the largest empires in known space. Tavram’s ship has been crippled after narrowly escaping an ambush and his would-be assasin is coming to finish the job.
The Vultures launch a high risk mission to rescue the prince and recover every last scrap of xenotech they can before the hunter catches up to his prey. But there are more dangers than notorious interstellar assassins when it comes to ferrying an alien prince across the stars, and Victoria must contend with dangerous alliances, old grudges, and even her own government if she means to bring her crew home alive. Whether she succeeds or fails, the consequences of her choices will affect the path of all humanity.
Vick’s Vultures was a complete surprise. I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect when I started it, but I’ll assure you it wasn’t gripping writing, fun characters, an interesting universe (or two) inhabited by a slew of differing alien creatures and cultures, all of it fitting together almost seamlessly. And it darned sure wasn’t a kick-butt female captain that wonderfully walked the line in which she was definitely a woman, but that never eclipsed her being a captain, nor did the author feel the need to butch her up so much she just became a dreaded man with boobs. Thank you Scott Warren for that! Characters really can be female and professional, who knew?
I did think Best Wish’s loss of control toward the end a little too convenient to believe and I occasionally had a little trouble understanding the techno-speak. But all in all, this was a fabulous read.
Captured by the Alien Savage, by Marina Maddix & Flora Dare was a freebie on Amazon. I’ve had it for a couple months, but I picked it up and it read now because I recently noticed that all the alien romances seem to feature blue aliens. On a lark I did a quick google search and came up with more than 50 of them. I even wrote a half joking blog post about it. I ended that post with the question, “…where’s my chartreuse alien, or mauve, or red?” Well, given that two days later I happened across a, I kid you not, pink alien romance in my TBR, I had to read it.
Description from Goodreads:
Just when I think nothing else could go wrong…I see her.
My crew and I are on a desperate mission hunting a villain, but he’s always one step ahead. Now we’re stuck in orbit over a primitive planet called ‘Earth’ without enough fuel to get us home. And worst of all, every last one of us is about to go into heat.
That’s bad. Very bad.
Our only hope of survival lies somewhere on the surface. I can’t afford any distractions, least of all a beautiful, curvy human female who my body tells me is my fated mate, my amavar. But that’s impossible! My mate can’t be human… can she?
I think…no, I’m fairly sure that this MUST be parody. And as parody it’s pretty good. It’s hilarious even. I mean he’s a hot pink (occasionally flushing to purple) alien stud who features a penis, with a retractable carapace, that when unleashed swells in the middle, vibrates AND GYRATES. He can even use it as a homing device to find his mate, literally being let by his cock. They fuel their ship on diet coke and have to return home quickly or they’ll all go into a mating frenzy and kill each other. It’s like all the normal alien erotica tropes on steroids. As parody I call it a success. If someone wrote this to be serious….um, sorry.