For me, science fiction has always been a genre of ideas, offering an experimental, imaginative, limitless canvas upon which to explore the world. It offers a separation from the 'real' world, freeing readers to embrace those ideas outside of society's stereotypes and prejudices. When an author like Aleksandr Voinov immerses himself in the genre and deals with issues of humanity and sexuality, as he's done inIncursion, the geek gurl in me tends to . . . well, get a little excited.
Here we have a young man, crippled by a Glyrinny weapon, leaving him with a deep, dark, dangerous hatred for the shape-shifting race. In order to obtain the prosthetic surgery that would give him back a semblance of normality, he embarks on a mission to capture and kill a Glyrinny. Complicating matters is the fact that the captain of the mercenary ship he's hired is a member of a warrior class to whom he had once aspired, but is forever denied because of his injury.
The affair that develops between Kyle and Grimm is an interesting one, and one which explores multiple levels of physical and emotional distance. Kyle claims he doesn't want a relationship to complicate his mission, but the truth is that he feels inferior . . . damaged . . . and unworthy. That, of course, offers a very unique form of attraction for Grimm, who is part of a caste that sees it as their duty to offer comfort and healing to others, as a balance for their warrior duties.
Aleksandr also offers an interesting take on gender here, with the Glyrinny being a race of beings that can read minds and take on forms either terrifying or appealing, based on those thoughts. Their gender is completely fluid, depending on the shape they've taken, and their ability to shape-shift also extends to the ability to heal themselves. I won't say much more about them or their role in the story, for fear of spoiling the mystery/tension, but they are a remarkable creation.
This was such a wonderful read, well-written, and absolutely inspired in some places. The emotional dynamic between Kyle and Grimm is glorious to behold, and I appreciated the fact that Aleksandr doesn't fall into the trap of using sex to validate the relationship. As with all good science fiction, however, the relationship is only one element of the book. There is also a very strong plot here, full of tension, excitement, and adventure. The military aspect of the genre is usually my least favourite part, but here it works exceptionally well, illuminating the characters while driving the story forward.
Not what I expected, and all the better for it. Highly recommended.
[Reviewed by Sally]