The Captain’s Promise, by TJ Land
Series: Adrift, Book 4
Publisher: Ninestar Press
Release Date: October 17, 2016
Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Now that the crew of The Prayer have settled down on an uninhabited alien world, their captain intends for them to forge a new life for themselves. But Khurshed’s plans are interrupted when the ship receives a distress call from a nearby planet. While most of his lovers are excited by the prospect of making contact with their new neighbors, First Officer Antoine argues that responding might endanger the crew. As it turns out, his fears are well placed…
Lost in Space
I was really looking forward to this story, which is advertised as a science fiction adventure with polyamory, ace, bi and trans characters – inclusive SF, heck yeah! However, this is not what I ended up reading, and am thoroughly disappointed about it.
This is the fourth installment in the Adrift novella series, and while it’s entirely possible most of my issues with the book derive from not having read the rest of the series, there’s enough presented here to make reading a frustrating experience. The casual misogyny throughout may be something others can ignore, but when I see things like ‘Don’t cry, you pussy’, ‘You don’t see me being a bitch about it’, and the seeming absence of women on board the ship (there may have been two? I don’t know, no one seemed to care very much or mention them) I find it very disheartening. It is, in fact, possible to write m/m (or in this case m/m/m/m/m) without denigrating women, I promise. I also didn’t feel like I had a chance to get to know any of the characters properly, or at least well enough to be truly invested in their sex life, and some of their descriptions were quite frankly baffling – Zachery is apparently two feet taller than Rick, so even if the admittedly short Rick is five feet tall that still makes Zach at least seven feet?? Which was not at all apparent until the briefly mentioned height difference, as no character strains to look up at Zachery, or has to lower themselves very far down to Rick. I didn’t understand Echo’s characterisation either, he’s not a clone but they’re careful not to say ‘the c-word’ around him, so…what’s the c-word, and why is supposedly human Echo emphasised as ‘robotic’? Again, I’m sure reading the previous three would help answer some questions but I shouldn’t have to feel this lost and confused.
The tags on the Ninestar Press website state the characters are gay, bi, ace/aro and trans, but I couldn’t see any evidence of bi or trans characters, and didn’t know who was ace (or aro? both?) until 2/3 through the story. Of course it’s probable this is due to being unfamiliar with the rest of the series, but it was still extremely disappointing – the reason I wanted to read this was the presumed diverse representation and intersectionality of characters, none of which I was able to discern on the page. I think the ace character is also trans, but honestly I have no idea. And if so, there’s an implication that sex can only happen if you have the right equipment, aka a dick. There was also a lot of sex, which I was not expecting, and although I very much appreciated a brief scene demonstrating how nonsexual D/s can work with sexual partners, it was shorter than the others and seemed out of place in the narrative. Altogether I feel mislead by a science fiction story that mostly ignores its genre, and a polyamorous asexual romance that really wasn’t.
I did like the shapeshifting alien Rux’s amusingly blunt language, and if you’re looking for a short story focusing on hot melange sex with multiple partners, you’ll probably really enjoy this novella. It was not, however, what I was hoping for at all, so I am just a bit bereft and longing for something more, just like the captain and his crew.
T.J. Land is a South African writer of erotic romance and sometimes other things. Her main inspirations right now are her plants, Emily Carroll’s art, and her seething hatred for the final season of Downton Abbey. She hopes you’re hanging in there.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.