Tuesday, December 3, 2019

DARK SPACE, first in a series of gay SF space operas: Humanity vs the Faceless

(Dark Space #1)
Lisa Henry
$4.99 ebook platforms, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Brady Garrett needs to go home. Brady’s a conscripted recruit on Defender Three, one of a network of stations designed to protect the Earth from alien attack. Brady is angry, homesick, and afraid. If he doesn’t get home he’ll lose his family, but there’s no way back except in a body bag.

Cameron Rushton needs a heartbeat. Four years ago Cam was taken by the Faceless — the alien race that almost destroyed Earth. Now he’s back, and when the doctors make a mess of getting him out of stasis, Brady becomes his temporary human pacemaker. Except they’re sharing more than a heartbeat: they’re sharing thoughts, memories, and some very vivid dreams.

Not that Brady’s got time to worry about his growing attraction to another guy, especially the one guy in the universe who can read his mind. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just biochemistry and electrical impulses. It doesn’t change the truth: Brady’s alone in the universe.

Now the Faceless are coming and there’s nothing anyone can do. You can’t stop your nightmares. Cam says everyone will live, but Cam’s probably a traitor and a liar like the military thinks. But that’s okay. Guys like Brady don’t expect happy endings.



My Review
: Grimdark story of Humanity with its back against the wall. It's set on a rustbucket improvised and patched-together space station where the only thing for its conscripted grunt crew to do to wile away their mandatory ten-year hitch is wait for the Faceless to decide to kill them and everyone else on every other station then destroy earth's population.

The Faceless have already attacked Earth, destroyed our large cities, and left a bare billion alive on the whole planet...so more like the mid-19th century in population terms...and although it's not stated, the planet's horrifying losses came after global warming was biting. I infer this from the altered climate of Australia, where Brady Garrett is a reffo, that's refugee to us 21st century Amerikinz. He's living a life of near-slavery in a camp where his father mines unstated minerals and is dying from the un-labor-lawed nightmare conditions. Then he's conscripted to serve aboard a space station laughingly called "Defender Three." His ten-year stint starts when he's sixteen...child soldiery is not new nor will it be eradicated from the face of the Earth in any future I can see...and also just as his twelve-years-younger sister Lucy is about to be orphaned by his father's inevitable death. So he's facing a lot.

Add in some rape, some torture, oh yeah and the aliens have one of us they've held for four years! But now he's back! Cameron Rushton arrives on Defender Three in a weird alien...thing, a pod of some sort, and it falls to Brady as the station doc's chosen assistant-cum-trainee to decant him from it.

Hijinks ensue.

Cam damn near dies because no one understood how to operate the Faceless tech that brought him "home." In fact, he's dying in front of Brady, who uses the empathy he'd vigorously deny possessing to reach out and comfort Cam in his last moments. Strangely enough this is enough to establish a psychic connection between the men, and allows Cam to live...with wildling Brady as his literal, soon metaphorical, heartbeat. It's quite a turn-up, poster boy Cam the Captive returning from the tender mercies of the Faceless (awkward!) and then getting hitched to a low-class lowlife reffo as his sole means of staying alive (embarrassing!), as well as bearing word from the Faceless battle-regent Kai-Ren that the enemy is calling off their insect-extermination level "war" with Humanity. Funny thing how he's less popular now than when he was enduring...whatever it was he was enduring at the hands of an enemy so little understood our name for them is "the Faceless."

Humanity is, as always, irredeemable. The Faceless are right to exterminate us.

The world-building is excellent, but the sex scenes...*serious* non-con, very explicit rough play...will send the straight boys screaming. Too bad, too, because there's good space opera in here. I'll read the second one for sure, especially after the ending of this one.

This was a group read in the Goodreads Gay SF group. Thanks y'all for bringing this book to my attention.

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