*** Abandoned around 48%. *** He held himself like someone who'd spent his life in the military. And she knew what military men liked. “I didn't know y*** Abandoned around 48%. *** He held himself like someone who'd spent his life in the military. And she knew what military men liked. “I didn't know you were expecting me.” Renna used her best seductive voice. [...] Men were always so easy to read. [...] Gods, she hated working with other women. They were always so catty and competitive. Always so ready to stab you in the back if it meant getting ahead.
Sometimes I enjoy switching on my Kindle to buy a random, but recommended title on a complete whim. That's why I try to keep my paper TBR pile rather low. Having to sweep my eyes guiltily across a mountain of brand-new paperbacks when snuggling up with a spontaneous purchase kills half of the carefree fun. Futuristically flavored spaceship stuff has always held an inexplicably strong appeal for me, and a bit of boy-girl-electricity - if not overbearing - added to the mix is almost always appreciated. Therefore the enthusiastic review of Emily May, whose opinions I value highly, reeled me unto Amazon's shores with a juicy snap.
I eagerly started reading and found out quickly, that the world-building is unspectacular, but alright. Beam me up Scotty, if the weapons, vehicles and alien anatomies do not sound boringly startrekky: 'Heliolights', 'gamma particle stabilizers', 'nanotech spanners', 'radiowings', 'sonic screwdrivers' and 'magnacrafts'. Uhuh. That's cool sounding stuff, but it merely adds a thin sci-fi sheen to a more or less familiar high-class-thief setting. The setting is not the only thing that feels painted-on: “The smell of raw silk from his dark uniform making her take a step back. [...] The smell of starfuel, machinery, and space filled her lungs.”
I admit, I understand where Emily May's relieved gushing concerning the heroine's unrestrained use of her own body, her feeling at home in her physical shell, and her making the most of her feminine effect on guys comes from. All that usual focus on naive, timid and pure virgins in the need to be conquered, taught and saved grates on one's nerves pretty quickly. But I do not enjoy this 'liberated' shot at gender stereotyping more: All men are simple and quickly relieved of their innermost secrets, when a waterfall of thick and shiny hair (I cannot stand one single flick of the heroine's glorious ponytail more), a carefully window-dressed pair of boobs or a sultry voice is used to prod their explosive libido into action. In addition, men are always quickly hurt in their pride, being male equals being unconcerned about hygiene or the lack thereof in one's abode, and it means being able to differentiate work from private relationships. The crew of the 'November' consists only of men in order to do a kidnapping job properly without staff members being swayed by guilt or compassion for a victim young enough to be their kid. Naturally, their women-free vessel stinks and is in disarray, Renna notes with haughty disdain. On the other hand she does not like to work with other women, because they are all "catty and competitive" (compare quote on top).
"Sleeping with the chief engineer of the V’Mani Electrical Company had been one of her better decisions." / "With a sigh Renna followed Viktis from the ship. Good thing she’d washed her sexy underwear." I do not judge Renna for exchanging sexual favors for crucial information or access to her targets' inner sancti and I congratulate her for being able to feel pleasure even when encountering a stranger's naked body is mainly part of her business strategy, but I resent her conviction that because of male simplicity physical seduction is a foolproof method (Luckily at least MYTH leader Dallas seems to be unimpressed, which makes her saloon girl antics look rather silly and pitiful) and that she needs to employ it to keep that final edge, which others in her line of work do not have enough spunk or guts or sexiness to allow themselves to gain. Also I do not get why she is so angry about being called a whore. Her sexuality is a commodity she is quick to barter with. Women in the Star Thief universe do not maintain their shape to feel good but to get their way. To use a second example, Mary, the 'Athena's' on-board cook had been a mercenary in her youth, too, but after her husband's death and her switch from thief to kitchen staff she has allowed her body to go overweight and matronly - apparently she has no use for feminine weaponry anymore.
Even as the genre is concerned I differ with Emily and the majority of readers shelving the book. Renna is only 23 years old, but if plot wasn't relying so heavily on her body as a currency and a means to trick men to part with their brains and their secrets, she could as well be 50. She is very, very experienced and sought after in her profession, she knows the other players in her field and she speaks of immediate retirement plans more than just once. Therefore I would never label her story as New Adult fiction. I consider 'The Star Thief' as a standard example of romance-tinged scifi told from a female point of view. Most female romance heroines are in their twenties - whether they populate chicklit, historical bodice-busters or paranormal romance. New Adult to me means first job (uni time counts as well), first live-in partner or flat-mate, first attempts at being an independent adult. (Still, notwithstanding Renna's abundant experience and professionality she is trusting enough to let a very shady scientist with a murky agenda tamper with her broken brain implant. What if he installed a bomb, a tracker, something that makes her sense impulses which aren't real? Apparently even the best can be mightily stupid.)
I have not mentioned the love interest yet, which is probably unforgivable in a scifi romance review. Well, I have to say that after reading almost half of the book I have not learned much about the icy-eyed, well-muscled Hunter/Finn. It is obvious from the first encounter that apart from sexual tension there is a huge misunderstanding wedged between the former gang mates concerning who betrayed whom. And when that is cleared away, which is just a matter of time, everything will be peachy and the lacy underwear and the flexible, bulletproof spiderman-nano-schmano-suits will be ripped off under an ultra-violet dry-shower or in a starfuel tank.
'The Star Thief' has ‘self-published material’ written all over it. It shows a desperate need to be cleansed of annoying repetitions and ballast and turning-arounds-in-circles: Twice Renna is ultra-angry and shocked about the revelation that the rescue mission at the beginning had been just a test to assess her abilities. (”You mean you used this kid as a frakking test for me?” she snarled. / ”Was Myka's rescue a test?” Dallas nodded.) and I haven’t really counted how often she blathers about “a girl” and her need of "morals": A girl had to have her morals, but that line was getting further and further away the more he touched her. / But a girl had to have her principles, and slavery didn't fit into her moral code. / A girl had to have her morals, but where should she draw the line? *Sigh*. A girl has to have some stamina, but, I, personally, drew the line at 48% percent.
A less important side remark: I always thought that self-publishing meant being in charge of many things a traditional publisher otherwise decides without consulting you. Therefore I am very irritated that the cover girl looks so porcelain-dollish in spite of the heroine being in the possession of coffee-colored complexion.
Obviously, Renna and her adventures were not for me. But I am sure there are still some spaceship romps out that that do match my taste. Titles I loved were 'Startide Rising' by David Brin and 'Song of Scarabaeus' by Sara Creasy (both in the adult section). Can you recommend similar titles to me? I am curious about 'On Basilisk Station' by David Weber, ‘Perdition’ by Ann Aguirre and 'The Apollo Academy' by Kimberly P. Chase – although the latter is probably pretty chicklitty. ...more