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When Jacob Dawes is selected for the Imperial Intellectual Complex as a child, he's catapulted from the poverty-stricken slums of his birth into a world where his status as an unclass is something no one can forget, or forgive.

His growing scientific renown draws the attention of the emperor, a young man Jacob's own age, and they find themselves drawn to each other in an unlikely and ill-advised relationship. Jacob may have won the emperor's heart, but it's no protection when he's accused of treason. And fighting his own execution would mean betraying the man he loves.

306 pages, Paperback

First published March 25, 2012

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About the author

Leah Petersen

9 books65 followers
Leah Petersen lives in North Carolina manipulating numbers by day and the universe by night. She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She’s still working on knitting while writing.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Experiment BL626.
209 reviews352 followers
May 27, 2013
The world building fell flat on its ass. The romance shovelled me crap. The protagonist tripped into a vexing stereotype.

+ the world building

Classism was a central theme in the world building, and it took no effort for me to believe in the fictional world. The bad news was that after the world building in the first few chapters there was no more world building thereafter. It was like building a house but stopping short of putting the plumbing.

The world building boiled down to the following: rich people were evil, poor people were perpetual victims, and the smart people were pawns of the rich people and indifferent to society ills. I understood that the book was trying to shine a light on the plight of the poor, but it did no service by offhandedly demonizing everyone but the poor.

What bothered me the most was the Imperial Intellectual Complex where the Empire segregated all their smart people. While it was believable as an academia, I didn’t like the disassociation between intellectualism and humanity.

+ the romance

If the romance was D/s, then I wouldn’t have minded the severe imbalance of power in the couple’s relationship, but it was not D/s. Peter’s treatment of Jacob pissed me off. Things were not a disaster in the beginning of their relationship, but they got very messy towards the end of the book, especially when Peter threw Jacob in jail and sentenced him to death but changed his mind at the last minute (because Reasons) and exiled him instead. That was just drama for drama’s sake, furthered by the matter that Peter was not a fully fleshed out character so his actions brought a sense of contrivance to the story.

The romance wasn’t romantic and endearing. Far from it. It was dysfunctional and abusive. There wasn’t even smut as a consolation; all the sex scenes happened off-page. I was expected to take the romance seriously. So seriously I did, and I did not like it one bit.

The couple had too many issues. None of them were resolved and very little were even addressed. I wouldn’t exactly label the romance as insta-love but it might as well have been given how I was led to believe that love will somehow, like fucking magic, conquer everything for the couple to be together.

Also, the glaring issue of heirs was never brought up. WTF. It was great that same sex relationships was a non-issue in the story but what about heirs? The book world-built how the royal family was uber important and how Peter was one the last few members. Thus, it seemed natural that the issue of heirs would have been addressed down the road. It never was, and it amounted to a plot hole.

In sum, this was not a romance of two people in love. This was a romance of a selfish, power-tripped Emperor and his naive, idealist scientist in an unbearably angsty relationship where they happened to feel moments of love.

+ the protagonist

I didn’t like how Jacob was stereotyped as a naive, idealist scientist. A prodigy? Yes. But smart? No. It was so pathetic how it took very little effort for the bad guys to bring Jacob down because all Jacob have to do was be himself. The story was strictly told in Jacob’s 1st person POV which meant I was supposed to be sympathetic, and I was in the beginning. After all, the story started with him as a child being forcibly taken away from his family in the slums. However, I quickly got disillusioned when Jacob grew into a reckless and thoughtless person with passing chapters.

Jacob never once seriously considered the consequences of being involved with Peter. FFS, his love interest was the Emperor, the most important guy in the story’s universe, the guy who can send him to prison if he’s displeased. Jacob didn’t think with his head, he thought with his dick.

Furthermore, Jacob treated his girlfriend like shit. I didn’t particularly see it as cheating but I could definitely understand if people did. Jacob should have firmly ended things with Kirti before he left the Imperial Intellectual Complex to be with Jacob. Instead, he let his relationship with Kirti remain ambiguous and took the coward's way out of letting the long distance disconnect their relationship. It was shitty of Jacob to leave things hanging with Kirti. Seriously shitty because previously Kirti and Jacob were childhood friends, like brother and sister, long before Peter ever came into the scene.

Later on, when he and Peter were on a break (if you can called your boyfriend almost killing you and then changing his mind and exiling you to a cesspool of a prison instead AND putting a restraining order against you a “break”) he used Kirti as a convenient bedmate. Though Kirti was willing, it was a bad move because their relationship was frayed and it didn’t need sex to complicate things. When he got back with Peter, once again Jacob failed to tell Kirti face-to-face. Even though they weren’t officially boyfriend and girlfriend the second time around, it was still shitty of Jacob, leveled up from seriously shitty to abysmally shitty. Jacob deserved a kick in the groin.

Thus, in addition to being a naive intellectual stereotype, Jacob was a dipshit. Admittedly, Jacob did try to improve himself and make amends, but it was far, far from enough. He never truly learned from his mistakes, and they were dumbass mistakes. I didn’t care how many things Jacob invented and how many times he revolutionized science, the dude was thoroughly a fuckwit.

I also did not like that the story positioned Jacob as a Jesus who would bring salvation to the poor. Suffice to say, instead of challenging classism as it intended, the book made things horrendously classist.

In Conclusion

I rate Fighting Gravity 2-stars for it was okay, and I’m being lenient. The book pushed my anger button more times than I care for.
Profile Image for Steve Umstead.
Author 12 books1,026 followers
May 10, 2012
Science fiction, fantasy, romance, oh my! Fantastic read

Such a combination of genres, I'm not even sure where to start!

How about science fiction? Fighting Gravity is, in my opinion, much less sci than fi. Very little of the standard tech of scifi is present, and the same with interstellar travel and other worlds, except almost in passing (such as an unscheduled stop at a nebula to sightsee). Don't get me wrong, this is by no means a complaint, but as a lifelong scifi fan I do look for that 'definition' of traditional scifi (to paraphrase, if the science is taken out of the story it would collapse). Fighting Gravity has scifi elements, but is not necessarily scifi. The story could have easily taken place in Elizabethan England with horse-drawn carriages without missing a beat.

Which brings me to fantasy. Again several elements of fantasy, even high fantasy, are contained within Fighting Gravity. You have emperors and empires, children taken away from their homes for bigger and better things, other worlds and time frames, and so on. But again, no elves, no magic spells, no flying carpets.

Romance? Now we're getting closer. Fighting Gravity is at its heart a romance between a royal and a commoner; a privileged one surrounded by wealth, opulence, and advisers, in love with an 'unclass' nobody. Now we've got the elements: forbidden, hidden love with the empire in the balance. But that's still not Fighting Gravity as a whole.

So what is the story? To paraphrase James Carville, "it's about the characters, stupid." From page one, I was captivated by Jacob Dawes' story and couldn't stop turning the pages. I'm normally a reader looking for things blowing up and bullets flying, but the story was that good I didn't miss them. Some have called the early parts of the story a little slow going, and I can see that, but it's such a great look at a character developing, becoming who he is later in the story, that one doesn't need cliffhangers and fire-breathing dragons.

Jacob Dawes is fascinating. I absolutely loved watching him grow up and mature, fall in love, get in trouble (no spoilers here) by continually running his unclass mouth in front of the privileged, and seeing his emotions run the full gamut. And the emperor is no less fascinating, as are the secondary characters (like Kirti, his childhood sweetheart he leaves behind).

The writing style is truly flawless and was a joy to read. I'm a HUGE stickler for the mechanics (spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure) and Fighting Gravity was one of the best I've seen from any author. The writing style itself made me continue on reading well into the night, and the inter-character dialogue was spot on.

Oh wait, did I forget something? Right…the emperor's name is Peter. Yes, Jacob and Peter fall in love. In today's day and age, this is such a hot button topic for many, but Leah Petersen has written such an incredible story around a gay romance that it's immaterial. It could be Jacob and Petunia, or Jane and Peter - didn't matter. It's a testament to Petersen's writing style and her story that a controversial subject is secondary and accepted as just part of the overall plot.

Very well done. Ms. Petersen, I'm looking forward to the next one. Especially because you hinted at some very intriguing possibilities at the end of this one.
Profile Image for Kris.
9 reviews2 followers
April 22, 2012
Being sick sucks, but having a good book to read does help mitigate things. Reading Fighting Gravity has helped sooth my post Ad Astra cold while giving my beleaguered brain something to focus on.

It helps that this book is an excellent read. I dipped my toes into it last night and then dived in fully today while sprawled out on the couch, devouring it in only a few hours. It's that good and that easy to fall into.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that Falling Gravity's main character, Jacob Dawes, is so well written. The entire book is first person in his voice, and Jacob is such a highly-self aware sort that he can comment on when he's made a colossal error without attempting to excuse himself.

This book could stand alone as a character study of one man's journey from crushing poverty to the rarest heights of scientific achievement, from obscurity to notoriety, but it also includes themes of love, passion, and dangerous/dysfunctional relationships that form the story of Jacob's life. There is an almost fairy tale quality to this book.

Falling Gravity isn't perfect however. I finished this book with a lot of unanswered questions. With the focus being on Jacob and told through his first-person viewpoint a lot of the background of the world Leah Petersen has crafted falls to the wayside. My frustration at that could be due to the fact I'm very much a detail person. I like to know the why behind most things, especially why Earth in the future has an emperor, a variety of social classes, and so on. There are subtexts of class war/envy and bigotry that are present but not examined as much as I would have like to have seen.

One aspect that isn't explained his how accepting people of Falling Gravity's world are unconcerned about the fact that Jacob is in a gay relationship. Wait, let me correct that. People are concerned about the relationship, not over the fact that it's with another man but rather who that man is. One concern about books set in a neo-feudal setting is that the society depicted will have regressed in almost all aspects, and Falling Gravity avoids completely falling into this trope while still having some unsavory societal elements.

This is Leah Petersen's first book and I think she's done a marvelous job. What Falling Gravity does right it does very well and what it lacks doesn't prevent it from being a good read. The ending does leave open the possibility of a sequel, which I think would work great if told from a different perspective than Jacob's. Much like J.M. Frey, I think Leah has a lot of potential and I look forward to reading her next book.
Profile Image for Jaimie Teekell.
97 reviews2 followers
February 24, 2012
I am an internet-friend of Leah's, but not because I met her before I read this book. I met her because I read this book and loved it. A few years ago, Leah had early chapters of FIGHTING GRAVITY on her blog. I read them and was hooked. I became an obsequious beggar, she graciously sent me the whole manuscript, and the rest is history.

What impressed me initially about FIGHTING GRAVITY was the dialogue and the pacing of the story. I am a stickler for both. Snobby, really. What made me fall in love with FIGHTING GRAVITY was the relationship between the two leads. Both characters were so skillfully and yet effortlessly drawn that I couldn't help but be completely immersed.

I no longer work at the company, so I can tell you I was sneaking this book at work, during my first month there, because the story was more real to me than the risk of losing my job.

In a time where a book's concept or first chapters seem to trump its execution 95% of the time, I can promise you that with this little gem? You will be in good hands.
Profile Image for Sarah.
9 reviews
Want to read
April 27, 2012
Fighting Gravity is Leah Petersen's debut novel. She constructed a future world where the class you are born into means everything. But it isn't what I would consider a dystopian novel. While there are flaws with the social structure they aren't that far off from our own. In fact, this future world that Leah created is fairly accepting of homosexuality. It is far more egregious that someone have a relationship with someone below their class than of the same sex.

The protagonist, Jacob Dawes, manages to escape his destiny as an unclass due to his genius which leads him on his journey of growing up into a scientist to be reckoned with and a man. He is passionate in everything he does often taking him places he doesn't intend. I found myself crying with him during his times of heartbreak and beaming with his triumphs.

I look forward to a sequel which I've been told is in the works. I wasn't ready to let this world go when I got to the last page.
Profile Image for R.B. Wood.
Author 10 books116 followers
April 1, 2012
I was privileged and honored to have been one of the ‘beta readers’ for Leah Petersen’s Fighting Gravity, so I watched the development of the story for some time.

Yes, this is a science fiction story. But the talented Ms. Petersen blends the fantastical with a well thought-out tale spanning the desperate slums in a future Mexico City to the brilliantly depicted palace entrapments that the initially impoverished Jake soon finds himself in.

The scenery is painted with a brilliance that is both subtitle and amazing. The plot is intricately woven into a tapestry that will grab you from the first chapter and not let you go.

But the shining star of Fighting Gravity is the detailed characters, their interactions and reactions. You get to know these people. You care for them. You celebrate their triumphs and cry at the tragedies.

The love story within has the feel of a real relationship, with all the passion, anger, joy and disappointments that a true love affair has.

Spectacularly told, I highly recommend Fighting Gravity—not just for fans of SciFi, but for readers who truly enjoy discovering a world for themselves.
Profile Image for Chris Jackson.
Author 74 books177 followers
April 1, 2013
I've been wanting to read this for some time, actually since I met the author last year at ReaderCon. Knowing ahead of time that it is not exactly up my line of genre fiction (I'm not much for romances, though I do like romantic elements in the books I read) I was pleasantly surprised by this SF/Romance.

Without spoilers, I felt as if I'd been immersed in a strange mixture of Ender's Game and a heart-wrenching tale of love, loss, pain, and a deep look at just how stupid people who are in love can be. Leah Peterson does a wonderful job at with making the reader feel as if he/she has to turn the page to find out what happens next. She throws an unbelievable number of rocks at her protagonist, and although there is little "conventional" SF action involved, there is no shortage of scenes that are so violent (on levels that make you cringe) that I felt she was not pulling any punches.

Yes, this is an angsty romance, but it's also a realistic one. It's also a deep look at what love is, and that it doesn't really matter who or what the person you love is or is not... once the word "love" describes how you feel, you are in it, and there's no turning back.

Well done, Leah.
Profile Image for Mónica Bustamante Wagner.
Author 4 books113 followers
September 4, 2016
Even though I don’t read this type of sci-fi book normally, I was really happy to read this ARC! I enjoyed reading Leah Petersen’s debut, and I liked the protagonist.

This one’s about Jacob—Jake—a very intelligent but poor boy, who gets ripped off from his family by the Imperial Intellectual Complex (I was really immersed in the story when poor Jake gets tore from his family! So sad…). At first, Jake is really angry because he thinks of his family and his sister that he loves so much. Then after he adjusts to this new life, he meets the emperor (also a boy), and he’s yanked again from what he knows, because the emperor wants him by his side. I don’t want to give much away, but there’s a love story between Jake and the emperor, and the book has a great pacing.

As I said, I’m not used to reading this type of fiction, and just because of the premise, I’d give it four stars. But in the end, I gave it five, because it surprised me in a good way.
Profile Image for Jai.
613 reviews113 followers
June 23, 2012
I want to give this a 3.5.

Review originally posted on my book blog here

Fighting Gravity is a science fiction romance that was sent to me for review from the author.

Read an excerpt of Fighting Gravity (Chapter 1) here

My Thoughts: Told from the first person POV, this had the feel of a memoir. I couldn't tell what prompted this introspection, but I saw the story as three parts: Jacob's early years at the IIC, his relationship with the Emperor, and the fallout from that relationship.

Jacob Dawes starts off as an unclass in Mexico City. His father, an abusive drunk, was Resettled years ago, leaving Jacob (or Jake), his mentally ill mother, and his toddler sister to fend for themselves. When he's eight-years old, Jake's intellect gets him selected for the Imperial Intellectual Complex (the IIC), so that he and a handful of genius children can serve the Emperor with their technological and intellectual advancements. It's an honor to be chosen, but too poor to receive advance notice that this would happen, Jake is taken away from his family by unsympathetic servants of the Empire. At the IIC, his poverty and class keep working against him. He's immediately singled out by the Director as a likely troublemaker and unworthy of being in the program at all. Shunned by many of the students and instructors, Jake struggles to prove himself, but he's often the target of punishment and bullying. Eventually, he finds his niche in Physics under a kindly mentor, and after that he becomes a rising star with a series of breakthroughs under his name. By the time he's fifteen, his advancements bring him to the attention of the young emperor, Rikhart IV, who is exactly Jake's age. An unlikely relationship begins.

Jake and Peter (the Emperor) are on the exact opposite spectrum of the class ladder. At first Jake is in awe of Peter, but he quickly adjusts and sees Peter as another person - someone he likes. When Peter brings Jake along on a year-long tour of the Empire, the two have a chance to spend time alone. They begin a romantic relationship after an easy companionship (sex here is fade-to-black after some kissing and enthusiastic pushing). There's not a lot of slow burn in their romance - their falling in love feels inevitable -- but after they do, that's where the drama really begins.

Class division is a big theme in this book. It's clear from the start that although Fighting Gravity is set in a future where space travel is common, the social structure is traditional and hierarchical. While the Emperor has absolute power (so much so that the word "Emperor" is used in everyday phrases where we'd say "God"), merely being born as an unclass has made Jacob's life a constant battle against the extreme bias of those around him. Jake resolves to be beyond reproach, he doesn't always succeed, and his impulsiveness often overrules his self-preservation. His non-conformist attitude about class (reacting to the individual, not their status) is welcomed by some (such as the Emperor), but makes enemies of others.

I worried for Jake. He's the underdog in Fighting Gravity, and while he is extraordinarily gifted, he's also flawed. His biggest weaknesses involve impulsiveness and letting his anger overrule diplomacy. Jake sees how people react to his class, is annoyed, and just reacts instead of protecting himself and to soothing egos. He knows that the aristocrats have "quiet, unpleasant ends that didn't involve petitioning committees" if they wanted to be rid of him, but he kicks the hornet nest anyway.
"Others may say what they think, but you cannot."
"Oh no? And why's that?" She heard the edge of anger in my voice because her eyebrow quirked.
"You know why. Because of what you are."
The hot rush of anger spread from my head down through my fingers and toes. My fists clenched. "I thought you were different than them, Your Grace, but I guess I was wrong. I don't get to have an opinion because I'm unclass? I should have known. You're like the rest of them."
The crack of her hand against my cheek left my jaw throbbing and my ears ringing.
"Stupid man. Yes, it is because you are unclass, and you know I do not think less of you for it. If I did, would I be trying to protect you?"

This was a character and relationship-centric story. A big pull of Fighting Gravity (once we're past his time at the IIC), is the drama that unfolds from the volatile combination of Jake and his closeness to the Emperor. With Peter, who treats him as an equal, everything is wonderful, but that's in private. In public, time and again, Jake just makes himself an easy target for others and makes decisions without telling his powerful lover. He gets threatened and tells no one, and then of course his enemies carry out their threats. I sped through the story in a matter of hours because I wanted to know whether Jake would be alright and if he could be happy with Peter. It was really frustrating though--Jake brought a lot of trouble on himself, but the hatred against him was unjustified too.

I really liked how much Jake's class played a role in the story, but I also felt like Jake's problems center on himself. He's hated for being an unclass, but he's oblivious to others with similar situations. When he does think of others not as lucky as himself, his attentions are too little or too late. I'm hoping that enlightenment in this area is being saved for later. I'd like to see how both Jake and Peter would approach the class issues in the Empire.

Another niggle I had was over the extremity of some of what Jake goes through. Despite being caught up in what was going on, a romantic gesture and some painful punishment still felt over the top to me. I found myself asking "did they really have to do that?" at certain scenes. I'd have preferred more nuanced consequences for Jake, even if the angst and drama had me flying through the pages. I preferred the subtler moments, like those between Jake and his assigned servant, Jonathan. There was the suggestion all is not as it seems in that area, and I'm curious where it will go in the next book. Well, if there is a next book. Fighting Gravity didn't end with a cliffhanger, but it did feel like Jake's story wasn't over.

Overall: Fighting Gravity is a science fiction romance styled as a memoir about a poor unclass boy (Jake) whose genius intellect brings him out of the slums and into the path of the Emperor. They fall in love, but there are consequences because of deeply engrained beliefs about class hierarchy. Overall I thought this was a well-written, emotionally gripping type of read that went down easy. It may not have knocked my socks off because I wanted the class issues further developed, but I can see others not having that issue, and at $2.99 for the ebook, it's worth giving it a go. Recommended for those looking for a coming-of-age type of SFR.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Pfaller.
72 reviews43 followers
May 24, 2012
Leah Petersen’s debut novel from Dragon Moon Press, Fighting Gravity is a phenomenal love story set against an epic sci-fi universe where interplanetary travel, ground-breaking scientific innovations and opulent riches are commonplace.

Oh, and that love story? It’s a gay love story.

The nice thing about her book is that it focuses on those elements, in that order. In fact, I wouldn’t even say the fact that the two main characters are both men is the third most important element she’s woven into this rich story. Class stratification, coming of age and realizing potential are all part of the journey of Jacob Dawes, a too-intelligent-for-his-station kid plucked from the slums of Earth to attend an exclusive academy for the Empire’s best and brightest. Sexuality is merely a detail.

It’s refreshing to read about a world where who someone chooses to love doesn’t matter, but rather focuses on why and how Jacob’s character comes to fall for Emperor himself.

And it’s the twists and turns, the imperfections and the messiness, of that relationship that’s the strength of the novel. Jacob and Pete are different people, but the magnetism binding them together forces those rough, jutting edges to rub against each other. It truly is a love story about a real relationship.

While Fighting Gravity is set in a sci-fi universe, it’s not about the tech or the fancy do-hickey that blasts plasma into antimatter. Rather, it provides a rich backdrop for the characters to populate. Her depictions of things new and wondrous to Jacob are appropriately breathtaking, but not once does this futuristic world get in the way of the flow of the story. The world of Fighting Gravity feels like a place that exists somewhere down the road, and Petersen is merely returning from a trip to a future, our future, and has chosen to tell us about it through this story of love.
Profile Image for Jaimie Teekell.
97 reviews2 followers
March 30, 2012
I am an internet-friend of Leah's, but not because I met her before I read this book. I met her because I read this book and loved it. A few years ago, Leah had early chapters of FIGHTING GRAVITY on her blog. I read them and was hooked. I became an obsequious beggar, she graciously sent me the whole manuscript, and the rest is history.

What impressed me initially about FIGHTING GRAVITY was the dialogue and the pacing of the story. I am a stickler for both. Snobby, really. What made me fall in love with FIGHTING GRAVITY was the relationship between the two leads. Both characters were so skillfully and yet effortlessly drawn that I couldn't help but be completely immersed.

I no longer work at the company, so I can tell you I was sneaking this book at work, during my first month there, because the story was more real to me than the risk of losing my job.

In a time where a book's concept or first chapters seem to trump its execution 95% of the time, I can promise you that with this little gem? You will be in good hands.
Profile Image for Roberto Calas.
Author 15 books79 followers
August 8, 2012
This is a fantastic read. Miss Petersen's story combines adventure, science fiction, a love story and a coming of age tale all into one. I found myself emotionally invested in the story and the characters and unable to stop reading. Many science fiction stories fail because they are too focused on the scifi elements, but the author has blended the science fiction perfectly with the one element that every story needs to nail down: character. The characters are so well developed and their problems are real and universal: being an outsider, trying to rise above even when everything is stacked against you. The story sweeps you along masterfully and never disappoints.
Profile Image for J.M. Frey.
Author 28 books145 followers
February 21, 2012
Leah Petersen's debut book is touching, emotional, and a comfortably domestic love story set against the backdrop of politics in an empire that spans the Galaxy. Our narrator, boy-genius Jacob Dawes, is an oddly mature child who "steps between a punch" at six, is chosen for relocation to the Imperial Intellectual Complex at eight, and "makes love" at fifteen.

Born into one of the most poor slums of an Empire that stretches across worlds, Jake is plucked from his home life due to his amazing maths proficiency and placed into the Imperial Intelligence Complex – a literal think tank where geniuses of every discipline are corralled and kept by the Emperor in happy luxury. Jake's anger at being taken from his family is soon replaced by awe, and then joy as he finally finds a place that not only challenges his intellect but supports his endeavours. Aside from the bullying Jake is subjected to from both fellow students and some teachers for his unclass status, Jake is happiest than he's ever been in his life.

But at the age of fifteen, the Emperor – a boy the same age as Jake – comes to tour the IIC. The two boys become fast friends, bonding over science, and then the Emperor departs, he commands Jake to become part of his retinue, forcing Jake to be ripped from his home a second time. Thus begins the novel's central love affair, and the turbulent emotional struggle that Jake wrestles with for the rest of the book – can he be happy continually being relocated at the Emperor's will, whenever the Emperor pleases? Can Jake accept being the Emperor's pet physicist and later, lover, even knowing that his life is no longer his own to control? Is the lure of an Imperial lab and free reign of the Emperor's body enough to keep Jake satisfied being a virtual prisoner for the rest of his life? Or does his own concern for the unclass of the Empire, and the vitriolic environment of political manoeuvring mean that he'll make mistakes so grave that they will endanger his happy relationship? Or worse, his own life... or the Emperor's?

The clinical way Jake narrates his memoires fits a life where the only education he's had was in the sciences. It makes sense for a highly articulate and educated man looking back on a highly articulate childhood. But while Jake thinks like a man, he still lashes out like a boy, and Fighting Gravity takes Jake through the rollercoaster of predicaments that are the consequence of Jake's own immaturity.

The poignant tragedy of the story is not that Jake suffers for his verbal slips, but that he had no adult figure in his life to help him understand the stresses of puberty and hormones, the truths and pains of growing up, or how to navigate the political battlefield into which he is thrust. Professors, yes. Parents, no. Jake was treated as an adult from the age of eight, and nobody seems to see the child floundering for acceptance and understanding underneath the highly competent physicist.

But above all else, the greatest success of Fighting Gravity lies in the fact that homosexual relationships are a simple given in this future. The Emperor may sleep with a woman or a man, as he chooses – the scandal comes not from the gender of the Emperor's partner, but with his class. In normalizing same-sex relationships this way, Petersen offers an inclusive future where the great social injustices centre on poverty, colonialism, Imperialism and the issues of treating subjects like chess pieces and chattle, and the war to have sexual equality was long ago won when the world was solidified into one nation, and religion was quashed.

My only concern with the book is relatively minor – I would have liked to see more social responsibility in Jake, see him try to save the little sister left behind, to use his new position in the Empire to better the lives of those people he used to number among. But in the end, even his lack of action on the part of the poor emphasizes that Jake's emotional maturity has suffered for his education, and that he is only a selfish, confused boy content with being content, just happy being happy.

Fighting Gravity is sweet, slow love story; a fantasy life for science geeks rounded out by the preciousness of an honest attraction and a careful courtship, and stuffed with the thrill of illicit encounters, and the horror of a world where serious social missteps come with serious consequences.
Profile Image for Alice.
845 reviews48 followers
July 30, 2012
I received a review copy of this book from the author. I'm afraid I'm about to prove that not having to pay for a book doesn't bias me in its favor.

There were some really strong parts of this book. The middle section is a tense page-turner, and I found the characters well-developed. But the first section, before the introduction of the Emperor, and the last couple of chapters, sagged. The worldbuilding was good, except that I had questions about the world I felt could've been answered in the narrative.

The story follows Jacob Dawes, an "unclass" boy from one of the worst slums in Mexico. He's recruited into a prestigious academy in an unprecedented move. Unclass people don't just go to the IIC, apparently, and Jacob pays for it in unjust punishment by his teachers and the head of the academy.

Then he makes a scientific breakthrough, and suddenly everyone respects him. There's an implication his edge is that he has a convenient form of synesthesia, which allows him to see patterns that others are blind to. If that's the case, though, it wasn't fleshed out or consistent enough, leading me to the uncomfortable feeling I was dealing with a Gary Stu.

The book improves after the introduction of the Emperor, but there were more questions. I could never figure out if the Emperor was a mere figurehead, a symbol of a united galaxy. If he was truly needed to run the Empire, he had an awful lot of free time. If he was just a figurehead, he had an awful lot of power.

Then a romantic relationship develops between Jacob and the Emperor. I believed the relationship, and I thought the barriers between them were realistic and well-developed. That was the strongest part of the book, in my view, but it still left me with questions. No one batted an eye at the Emperor's same-sex relationship, unless they were so horrified by the thought of homosexuality that Jake goads a high-ranking Duke by implying he's trying for the same. If this future Empire has a more open-minded view of same-sex relationships, why is it still associated with weakness to the point where an accusation of such would justify hitting someone?

The ease of solving the main conflict actually detracts from the tension in the middle, which was disappointing. The ending is also far more drawn out than it needs to be. I'd gotten the idea we were dealing with a happily ever after long before it's spelled out. There's also a scene towards the end that implies Jacob hasn't learned a thing from everything he's been through.

This book is a romance with science fiction trappings, but the science fiction and future technology elements are often shied away from. They're background. The sexual element, too, while strong in emotion, is scant on explicit detail. That was actually a relief, as it put the focus on the characters' emotions, rather than their physical gratification. This was not a story about people falling in lust; it was about love in an unrecognizable setting. Due to the science-fiction-lite description, I'd be more comfortable calling this a fantasy setting.

I had to look up the publisher before I could write my review, because the editing seemed inadequate. Sentence fragments abound, as do comma splices. Even if the above questions couldn't have been answered, surely a professional publisher should've noticed the grammar issues. To my surprise, the publisher is a well-established one that has discovered several reputable science fiction and fantasy authors.

This is Leah Petersen's debut. The writing mechanics can be fixed. She has the elements of a successful book, here. Hopefully in future novels, she'll also have the presentation down.
Profile Image for Michelle.
Author 8 books10 followers
July 21, 2014
“Fighting Gravity” by Leah Petersen is a science fiction gay romance that follows Jacob Dawes starting with his removal from the ghetto to the Imperial Intellectual Complex, where he is expected to benefit the Empire with his genius and, somehow, fit in with his prejudiced upper class peers. For a Romance, the book is high on smart details and serious themes which raise Fighting Gravity to the cream of modern science fiction. Never does the reader get the myopic sense that Fighting Gravity is about Jacob Dawes and whomever he happens to be in love with at that moment. Instead, the book is as much about social structure and personal improvement as it is about the unpredictable human heart. At the same time, Leah Petersen never loses sight of the personal relationships that make Jacob’s narrative a Romance that will have you racing to get to the end and then pining for the next installment.

Fighting Gravity is not YA, yet the characters are in their teenage years, so it may appeal to and be appropriate for young adult readers who are ready for more mature themes. Although the characters are teenagers, the perspective is of Jacob as an adult relating a story of his past, and the next book in the series will take the characters into adulthood. But what really separates Fighting Gravity from your typical YA book is that the romance is more realistic and more mature, reflecting the complexities of real life relationships and how they form, break apart, and evolve when the participants are faced with intrapersonal, interpersonal, and external challenges. Jacob’s relationships are affected by life changing events such as Jacob living on a spaceship for a year, as well as by Jacob’s human inability to explain or control his actions one hundred percent of the time. As the characters encounter these obstacles, they each strive for healthy relationships and a stable position in life. In other words, while the characters make their share of questionable decisions, the love interest is not a creepy jealous stalker type whose behavior is made all the more abominable by the other characters’ blind acceptance. Jacob Dawes is an antihero, but one who, like most good antiheros, eventually realizes that he’s due for self-improvement. For these reasons I find Fighting Gravity to be no more objectionable for a mature teenage reader than many of the standard classics on a high school reading list.

As much as I love a good Romance, my favorite aspect of Fighting Gravity is its tip-of-the-iceberg science that categorizes it unabashedly as Science Fiction. Like other great modern writers, Leah Petersen effectively brings Science to the forefront without bogging down the story or making the reader feel like they need a Masters in Everything. You come away with the sense that the author knows her stuff, without having to dive into obtuse pages describing how binary star systems work or why faster-than-light travel is or isn’t possible. Fighting Gravity is like if Ursula K. Le Guin and Orson Scott Card could co-author a book without exploding. On the one hand you have the liberal and social science aspects of Ursula K. Le Guin, and on the other hand you have a character-driven story that isn’t afraid to be entertaining.

The depth of Leah Petersen’s writing gives the reader credit and engages multiple aspects of the self. For that reason, I feel confident recommending this whirlwind read to a variety of genre readers, from Romance to High Fantasy, because even a lover of High Fantasy would enjoy the conflict arising when an Emperor and a boy from the ghetto lock eyes. If you’ve had trouble getting into other science fiction, give Fighting Gravity a spin. You don’t have to be a mechanic to enjoy the hum of a classic engine.
Profile Image for Jeanne 'Divinae'.
984 reviews18 followers
April 29, 2013
This was a long book, even though I did not feel like it was dragging on forever. It was set at a good pace. I feel that the author set up this society very well and the characters were created with some depth. In this book, you meet Jacob and follow him through him growing up. You meet him when he is 8. I was thankful, they waited until he was 16 before he became involved with anyone. Jacob is bisexual. I personally and not to keen on the idea. I felt a little robbed when he had relations with both a women and a man. Even though, he ends up choosing the man.

Jacob is from the unclass. The unclass is lower than the lower class in society. The higher classes, turn the other way and do not view the unclass as people. If there is a problem, it is of course the unclass's fault. Jacob is a genius. Because of his intellect, he is chosen to be relocated, despite his social status. He is relocated to the IIC, to be schooled and raised for the benefit of the Empire. He is torn. He is very happy to have his learning experiences challenged and meet other people whom he can relate too on an intelligent level, but he misses his family. He feels like he left them for the worst.

He becomes friends with another boy and girl at the IIC, but a lot of people treat him like dirt merely because of his social status. There are people who prejudge him and bully him. He is tormented for many years. Finally, the new emperor comes to visit. He is well known by now, for he has many successful inventions that has improved many people's lives. The Emperor is the same age as Jacob, in fact they share the same birthday.

The Emperor and him become friends and he is invited on a year long tour with him. As they are traveling, they feel an attraction towards one another and they end up together, despite the reasons not to be. Pete is the Emperor. Jake(Jacob) is a well known unclass inventor. People are against their relationship. Not because they are both men, but because Jake's social status.

There is a lot of unrest among the Empire. Jake wants the unclass to have better life. Better choices. Pete has to do what is best for the Empire. They quarrel, openly, about the unclass issues. Then Jake commits treason, and Pete has to make a decision.

This first book had ups and downs. First things look bad, then good, then bad and good. I caught myself tearing up, hoping things will turn around for them. "JUST LET THEM BE TOGETHER!!!" I kept telling myself. My eyes weren't reading fast enough. I wanted to know if they would make it or not!

Then the end of the book comes, and I go WHAT?? More questions! Thankfully, there was a sequel.

I would recommend this book to people who even weren't m-m romance readers. There weren't any describe scenes at all. It was written, where they would go to sleep "which lead to other things".
Profile Image for Lisa.
139 reviews8 followers
July 14, 2012
(3.5 stars)
(originally reviewed on Starmetal Oak Reviews)

Fighting Gravity is a science fiction romance debut from author Leah Petersen. I actually read this book in one day and was surprised by many things.

The story is told first person point of view from the character Jacob Dawes. He tells the story like he’s recounting it from some point in the future; there’s a lot of emotion and flows like it would through his memory. The story starts from his early childhood at eight years old when he’s selected from the slums of New Mexico to attend a prestigious school called Imperial Intellectual Complex for his special intelligence. From there it goes on to how he meets the Emperor of the galaxy, Peter, and how they form a romantic relationship. Their relationship is tested by the difference in their two classes: Jake is an unclass, the lowliest of the low, and there is no one higher then Peter in the galaxy. They are also tested by their personalities and choices they make along the way.

I was surprised at how focused Fighting Gravity was on the romantic relationship between Jake and Peter, although this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s a lot of drama in their lives (most of it caused by Jake) and it makes for a rollercoaster ride of a read. There are some good world building going on I wish I had seen more of such as the other planets, races, and how the social structure of the world works. So much is dependent on class and your social standing to the point where almost everyone’s actions are informed by where you are in the totem pole.
Jake himself is an interesting narrator albeit a frustrating one. His life is pretty tragic; it includes abuse from his father and later his superior at IIC. Much of these actions is blamed on the fact he is an unclass and therefore everyone hates him (but not everyone) and I felt this was true for most of the novel. Even when his class wasn’t a factor, he was still the target of everyone’s hatred. On top of this, even when he wasn’t being targeted, he made almost every choice he had in the worst way. He caused a lot of problems for himself and never really learned from anything he had done.

Overall, I am pleased I decided to pick Fighting Gravity up. I was happy with Petersen’s debut, which was written well and held a good narrative voice in Jake (even though he could be so stubborn and silly sometimes). I also really appreciated the male romance between Peter and Jake as it’s not very common in science fiction. I recommend this to those looking for a romance-filled light scifi read that focuses more on people and their relationships rather than large action sequences. I feel like the ending left an opening for a sequel (without being a cliffhanger) and I’d be interested in seeing how that plays out.

Review copy of this book was provided by the author.
Profile Image for Jody.
1,992 reviews45 followers
April 25, 2012
Leah Petersen is giving readers everything they could ask for in her debut release, Fighting Gravity. What starts out as a story with a dystopian feel soon morphs into a teenage boy/girl romance and then segues into a m/m love story with the entire book wrapped up in a sci-fi/futuristic bow. The action moves along at a nice pace presenting a young man's life told from his perspective and the events that befall him good and bad.

Jake Dawes is an intriguing character that practically grows up before our eyes. He came from the unclass and as such was treated shabbily by many. For him to succeed as he did was quite the nose snubbing to the upperclass. I enjoyed seeing him excel when so many thought he'd fail and said he wasn't worthy of trying to better himself. His spontaneous comments and political views sometimes condemned him to some bleak circumstances and I kept wishing he'd learn from those moments, especially when he kept saying he'd learned, but I was continually left frustrated by him.

The Emporer, Pete, is an equally likable character. He's a just leader and tries to always give Jake what he wants. Whereas he understands how precarious the line is when it comes to socioeconomic status, Jake bulldozes through a situation which is why he's always in trouble. Pete's always left trying to reign him in. The connection between these men was palpable from the first time they made eye contact. Being with Jake makes Pete feel more human, more real, since everyone else is bowing down to him. When they're together it's like everyone else doesn't exist.

The romantic life of Jake permeates through the entire story starting with Kirti with them coming together to assuage their loneliness. What he and Pete have is a more mature and lasting relationship that defied every horrible incident that befell them. The romantic interludes were romantic but not at all graphic. There was a sweet edge to the scenes in fact.

Amongst the romance was plenty of political intrigue with a few nasty villains rearing their ugly heads. Amongst the upperclass are plenty of superficial people who could become a villain at any moment. This leads to a feeling of constant tension with every scene that takes place in the capital.

This story grabbed me from the very start and although the early parts set in the school seemed to drag a bit, the story definitely picked up the pace in the latter half. The characters, both primary and secondary and hero and villain, are memorable and written in a realistic manner. Just when you think happiness reigns be prepared for a tension-filled cliffhanger that has me tapping my toe in frustration and anticipation.
Profile Image for PaperMoon.
1,356 reviews56 followers
February 10, 2020
Have you ever wondered what happened to Cinderella and her Prince after the words “and they lived happily ever after”? Well this debut novel provides one possible outcome.
Miraculously reprieved from a poverty-struck ‘untouchables’ slum-life existence by his prodigious mind, his street-smart survival instincts and an out of control mouth (which gets him into trouble more often than not as we shall see) – young Jacob Dawes is relocated to the Imperial Intellectual Complex (IIC) to be trained in his skills etc. to better ‘serve’ his emperor and his nation. The first third of the book then takes on that ‘Hogwarts’ tone with Jacob battling self-esteem issues, revelling against prejudicial treatment from abusive authorities, finding true friends who look out for his back, grows up from childhood into a late-teenager and mentored into making a couple of world-famous scientific discoveries / inventions by a sympathetic tutor.

The emperor prince (with the unremarkable name of Pete) is similarly aged who meets Jake first at a science-fair display at the IIC … initial sparks of attraction both confuse and scare Jake (who up until that time had only had straight sex with his girlfriend). The dance of attraction between these two young adults goes through the usual social class barriers and inner inhibitions all the way through a long interplanetary road trip which forces the MCs into confined spaces and each other’s personal space – all very sweet actually. However, just when Cinderfella manages to clinch his Prince … long repressed guilt, social conditioning/mores and social justice issues force the two apart yet again; a warning – punitive violence may put off some readers at this point of the tale. The resolution was a tortuous angsty one – I wanted to smack one or both MCs at several instances for their inner pride and obtuseness.

Petersen does a fair job laying the foundations of an inter-planetary sci-fi society but sci-fi buffs may find the techno-details a little light-on; the author does a better job with the socio-cultural schema. This novel works best when approached as a YA / coming-of-age M-M romance. It just so happens to be set in some futuristic time and place.
Profile Image for K. Turner.
Author 5 books8 followers
May 5, 2014
I bought this book soon after it came out, as Leah Petersen and I had discussed writing on twitter for a while. So when she released Fighting Gravity, I picked it up for Kindle. At the time I wasn’t much of a Kindle reader, and so the book sat unread for a while—until I started reading more on the electronic device. In a way, I’m glad I waited, so I could read the whole series back-to-back!

Fighting Gravity is told in first person from the point of view of Jacob Dawes, a young genius physicist. Jacob is a fantastic character, and even though he makes so many “wonderful” (read: awful, terrible) choices, those same things make him feel incredibly real on the page. It is his ability to fail so spectacularly and in such a way that, as readers, we understand that make him so incredible.

Not to jump into the plot too much, but in the first chapter Jacob is picked up to go to the ICC—a school for genius children so they can invent new things for the empire. It is always to the ICC that Jacob seems to turn to, and though Petersen does not allow much time on the page for this schooling to happen, we know enough to see this place as a part of Jacob. It is through his connection with the school that he meets the emperor, and starts a romance that captures our hearts.

Petersen has an excellent touch for voice and a fantastic sense of character. In this book, and throughout the series, each character is seen again and again, popping up, much like they do in our own lives. Her use of language and details is well-planned and immediately gives us the information we need to know. Her descriptions are well-placed and just sparse enough to create a little craving which she satisfies bit by bit.

Fighting Gravity is a fast-paced story. I read through it in two days, and only because I had obligations to attend to, otherwise I certainly would have finished it sooner. The text is very readable. There are no huge historical descriptions to decipher through or long passages about why things are they way they are. Petersen knows this world, but she doesn’t shove it down your throat—she offers a trail to follow and slowly unfolds the beautiful world she’s imagined.

Download or pick up a copy of Fighting Gravity. You won’t be disappointed!
Profile Image for Leo Valiquette.
Author 1 book30 followers
March 29, 2014
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I began reading Leah Petersen's Fighting Gravity, but I found myself pleasantly surprised and sucked into the narrative. I can only describe it is as an LGBT sci-fi romance that made me reminisce about Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant (remember that series?).

Of course, our protagonist, Jacob Dawes, isn't the horn dog that Anthony's Hope Hubris was -- he has a true love, and it's the emperor of a future galactic empire.

For the record, I'm a heterosexual male, and I quite enjoyed what turned to be a great story driven by characters who win you over all the more because they are real and human and flawed, and suffer for it as a result. It made me wish Torchwood and Captain Jack were still around.

But I am a word nerd -- a professional writer and editor -- and no matter how engaging a plot or a cast of characters, I will struggle to stay engaged with a story that suffers from cluttered, purple or otherwise weak prose. And don't even get me started on the sloppy grammar, spelling errors and questionable structure I often find with the titles from some small presses.

The writing here, however, is clean, lean and strong, like the strumming of harp strings. Leah Petersen is a great writer, hands down.

So if you're like me, a fellow who often goes for the traditional fantasy fare, the harder sci-fi, or even the Clive Cussler kind of stuff, and you want to give a chance to something a bit different, I highly recommend this book.

Profile Image for Jill.
142 reviews
May 12, 2012
I loved it and could not put it down. I am an internet friend of the author, and originally bought the book for only that reason...since it is not really my preferred genre. I am not entirely sure what genre is is...sci-fi I suppose, and romance?

Anyways, I was sucked into the book from the start, and found the characters likeable and engaging.

I love the way that homosexuality in the book is portrayed...normal. Although there are many things about the world in the book that are not desirable...the way homosexually is treated makes me hope for that in "the real world" one day, that even though many aspects of a romance may be questioned, the genders of two people in love wont be an issue.

I am looking forward to the next book!

1 review
April 27, 2012
A well-developed set of characters; likeable, but not perfect. The author is clearly skilled at world-building and has developed a plausible and complex world for this authentic and moving love story. Lots of plot twists to keep the reader engaged, and a lovely and appropriate denouement after some thorny roads for the protagonist.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3 reviews
April 25, 2014
I really enjoyed this story. I started last night only to be forced to put it down at 4 am with no more than 20 pages left to read. "Fighting Gravity" is well written and easy to read! The characters are fabulous and it was easy for me to fall in love with them. I am looking forward to next installment and hope it comes quickly.
Profile Image for Chrissy Dyer.
371 reviews16 followers
July 22, 2014
OMG! Harry Potter meets Hunger Games!! This was my thought when I first started reading this book. I am not one for Sci-Fi books, but this book had me right from the beginning. There are some many twists and turns, that I couldn't put it down!! I can't wait to read book 2 and find out what happens in Jacob's life.
11 reviews1 follower
December 17, 2013
I love this book. I love the fight, and we all fight graviton several fronts. This book provide me with a true paradigm shift, which speaks as mush about me of course as it does of the book. I highly recommend this book and look forward to exploring Leah Petersen's work.
Profile Image for Anika.
148 reviews5 followers
September 4, 2022
I'm really depressed after reading this story This book has been so angsty and depressing that given this is a trilogy I don't hold much hope for the main pairing. I don't think I can bring myself to re-read it or read the next books in the trilogy.

The book was badged as sci-fi romance which I feel is misleading on two counts 1) there wasn't much sci-fi world building we just had folks going into space every now and then basically and 2) we don't meet the love interest until chapter 7.

The story is written in first person and feels like a memoir. The world the author has created has rigid class structures but it's not at all clear why the world is like it is, what power the Emperor has and what the universe looks outside of Earth. It's not really that clear about Earth to be honest. This is a very interesting story, although it did feel like it dragged at times. I just wish the world building was better and the romance didn't have such a feeling of doom hanging over it. I read to escape the depressing world we live in, not read about another one and end up even more depressed than when I started.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,362 reviews103 followers
March 8, 2019
Well... that was a lot more depressing and involved a lot more angst and torment, both physical and emotional, of the main character and a lot less sci-fi (other than in the somewhat superficial worldbuilding and the fact that people occasionally fly around in spaceships) than expected. Don't get me wrong, there were many things I liked about this book, especially in the first half, but it also came with its share of flaws. The characters needed to be more fleshed out, as did the plot in various places, and there were several things about Jake and Pete's relationship that just didn't sit right with me. I might check out the second book to see where it all goes at some point though.
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