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Aces High, Jokers Wild #1

The Hands We're Given

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Sex. Drones. Rock and roll.

Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That's fine with the Democratic State Force base he's been assigned to command: they don't like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned.
Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in.

Life's a bitch. She deals off the bottom of the deck. But you play the hands you're given.

14 pages, Audible Audio

First published September 3, 2018

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About the author

O.E. Tearmann

14 books56 followers
Bringing their own experiences as a marginalized author to the page with flawed but genuine characters, O.E. Tearmann’s work has been described as “Firefly for the dystopian genre.”
Tearmann is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, a finalist for the Cygnus award and the winner of the 2022 Feathered Quill award. They live in Colorado with two cats, their partner, and the belief that individuals can make humanity better through small actions. In their spare time, they teach workshops on writing GLTBQ characters, plant gardens that showcase sustainable agricultural practices, and play too many video games.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 124 reviews
Profile Image for Melissa.
1,221 reviews75 followers
August 7, 2019
A complementary audio was provide in exchange for an honest review.

Well, I had written out a long review and it disappeared. Where did it go? I have no idea and now my original words will be lost forever and since I am really not happy I am not currently in the mood to try and rewrite it.

I originally thought the story pacing was too slow, that there wasn't enough action. The more I thought about I realized that the story progression was spot on. Sometimes too much it pushed into the beginning of a story to get the reader to understand the who, what, when, and that can be overwhelming. In this story I was able to breath and take in everything about these characters and what made them tick. I hope the next book (and the rest) give more action in defeating the "evil overlord."

My interest in this audio was because of the narrator. The book tags did not tell me their would be an MM romance to this; I thought I was just going to get an interesting dystopian story narrated by a great narrator. Imagine my surprise to learn that Aidan is transgender (born female) and that he and Kevin have a romance! Loved them together.

I do wish there was a prequel to give more back story as to how the world, or at least the US, came to be the way it is. We are 100+ years in the future and the government is no more. Aidan, Kevin the rest of the Wildcards are tasked to fix things.

I would love to continue with this series because I really want to know how things end, and I want to see more of the rest of the gang.

Narration 5 stars
Story 4 stars (because I wanted more back story)
August 27, 2019
Exciting and full of adventure. I enjoyed this new dystopian cyber series. I haven’t read anything like it before and I have to say I really enjoyed it and loved the characters.
Profile Image for Grady.
Author 50 books831 followers
March 8, 2021
Pow! A very exciting beginning of a new fascinating series!

Colorado author O.E. Tearmann offers a biographical note that is as colorful as the novels are rich. Using the pronoun ‘they’ we find that O.E.Tearmann is the nom de plume for writing duo Olivia Wylie and E.S. Argentum: The O. in O.E. Tearmann is Olivia Wylie, a professional horticulturist and business owner who writes illustrated non-fiction works on ethnobotany. The E In O.E. Tearmann is E.S, Argentum who writes fantasy and sci-fi romances centered on GLBTQ relationships. ‘Tearmann’ in Irish defines a refuge, place of asylum, home or sanctuary and their series centers on ‘healthy human bonds as the best way to deal with traumatic events, and of giving agency to marginalized characters.’ Tearmann is a member of Rocky Mountain Writers, the Queer SciFi Group, and teaches workshops about writing GLTBQ characters. In the ACES HIGH, JOKERS WILD series there are seven entries – 5 novels and 2 short stories. THE HANDS WE’RE GIVEN is Book 1, and fine overture it is!

Tearmann’s novel falls in the category of dystopian cyberpunk science fiction, and while the story is nearly prescient about the possibilities that we may meet in the future, adding a gay romance (one of the partners is a trans man) helps bring the postulates into focus. The story takes place in 2155 (note that is only some thirty + years from now!), and as the tale begins the clarity and high quality prose opens the door to the story: ‘The ancient Humvee rattled as it hit another pothole. On the other side of the vehicle’s window clouds of dirt obscured the view, kicked up as they rumbled through the dry soil of the Dust. Tumbleweeds and rabbitbrush crunched like bird bones beneath the tires. Aidan flipped through his new personnel roster on the holographic screen projected form the tablet in his lap. The nails of his free hand scratched out erratic rhythms against the fabric of his pants…’ The scene is familiar and that sense of realism makes this ‘dystopian story’ seem real.

The story is one of diminished (read destroyed) government in a world where big corporations rule, where climate change has indeed impacted the earth, and the nation is isolated save for technological and medical powers. Tearmann’s synopsis: ‘Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That's fine with the Democratic State Force base he's been assigned to command: they don't like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned. Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in. Life's a bitch. She deals off the bottom of the deck. But you play the hands you're given.’

Immensely entertaining as a story, the real impact of this excellent book is the prophetic idea the author places before us. All the seeds of the crises are very present at this moment, and that adds to the horror of the story line. O.E. Tearmann takes flight as an author of substance and importance. Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for Angela Goodrich.
1,605 reviews74 followers
January 2, 2020
I don't recall the last time my listening was interrupted so much, but man, The Hands We're Given was soooooo good!!!

Thankfully, I saw a tweet by the narrator about this audiobook because I probably wouldn't have found it otherwise. It's categorized on Audible in Mysteries & Thrillers as a Technothriller, with no reference to the fact that it's an LGBT story and/or has a romance thread. It's set in a dystopian future where the US is broken up into seven main sectors, each owned and governed by a different corporation. As I listened to audiobook, Tearmann's world is far too believable in that it's not that difficult to imagine the US going down that path. For me, that's what makes a dystopian novel or series truly frightening -- its plausibility. Add to that some serious action, undercover ops, and major growing pains as Aidan has to find his place and patch this family back together, and The Hands We're Given is definitely on my top reads/listens for the year.

Kirt Graves does an excellent job narrating and even with interruptions that caused me to have a day or two in between listening sessions, I always knew who was speaking. Yes, part of that is due to the uniqueness of the characters Tearmann has penned, but Graves created such interesting and distinct voices that brought the characters to life. It's only my hope that Call the Bluff will be released on audio that's keeping me from borrowing book two to find out what happens next.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,744 reviews35 followers
April 21, 2020
This wasn’t the book I was expecting but it was still pretty darn good. Set in 2155 in Colorado, the US is no more. Rather, the country has been divvied up among several large corporations. If you aren’t a corp, then you’re on the outside. Maybe you work in secret some place or perhaps you are with whatever military organization Aidan and his ragtag crew are part of. (It’s the Defense State Force but I have to look at the book description to figure that out as it’s not really mentioned or described well in the story).

So there’s these outposts and one particular outpost holds personnel that have issues with authority. The Wild Cards were once a cohesive unit that got stuff done but since loosing Taylor, their commanding officer, they have been a source of trouble to middle management. Now Aidan has been assigned there as his first command.

These outposts are in place to do several things – gather info, help move people quietly across Corporate borders, and steal all sorts of supplies from the corporations. There lots of drones and self-driving vehicles, wicked coding, and fun tech to keep our heroes under the radar. I see that this book has been labeled cyberpunk but there’s not really any of that going on. No VR at all.

This tale has a great mix of character growth, action, and near-future tech. I really liked Aidan and Kevin McIllian. Tho it was sometimes a little unbelievable that everyone but Kevin had small vocabularies. Sometimes Kevin would use words that have fallen out of common use in this 2155 corporation run USA (like sovereignty and lexicon). Other times, I found it unbelievable that his team mates wouldn’t know certain words (like retention). Still, Kevin is a fun character and I did love the way he talked and geeked out about old classic movies (liked Shrek).

Everyone at this outpost seems to have a secret, which made the team building even more interesting. Aidan is trans (which we know from the beginning). Kevin is hiding his heritage. Aidan has his hands full trying to win over these Wild Cards. I really enjoyed the give and take, the mistakes made on all sides and the efforts to recover from those mistakes. I’m not one for romance, but I couldn’t help but cheer for Aidan and Kevin as they bumbled through their courtship. The sex scenes were nicely done being tasteful and caring.

Later in the story, we do learn a bit more about the corporations and what happened to the USA. In walks Billy and Tweak who provide reasons for the plot to explore this aspect a bit. Tweak was both endearing and frustrating. I totally felt why Aidan wanted to strangle this brilliant, scarred brat. It was brilliant how Aidan and Kevin eventually win her over, bit by bit. And I thought Aidan had a hard time wining over Lazarus earlier in the book!

Some of the scifi aspects were well done – like the drones. But I had questions about other things – like why isn’t there a better way for Aidan to get his testosterone? We have 5 year slow release hormone birth control implants for women now. So why not something similar for testosterone in 2155? There were other areas where I thought the story would have benefited from some near-future scifi tech.

All together, it was a gripping story even with all the unanswered questions about the background (how did we get to this point & exactly what is this military group?). The character growth was the best part of the story. I would place this book in near-future scifi, military, LGBTQ+ genres. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Kirt Graves gave a great performance on the narration for this story. In fact, I was listening when my husband came to bed and after a minute or two, he asked if the audiobook was multicast. He was surprised when I told him it was all just one guy. He was impressed with Graves’s female character voices, as was I. He had unique voices for all the characters and regional accents, including a Hispanic accent for one border crossing character. His stutter for Tweak was also well done. The pacing was perfect & there were technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook in exchange for an honest review. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Profile Image for Cathy Geha.
3,598 reviews66 followers
September 16, 2022
The Hands We’re Given by O.E. Tearmann
Aces High, Jokers Wild #1

Marvelous story I was immersed in immediately and one that I had to finish!

What I liked:
* Aidan: newly minted commander, given challenging post, anxiety issues, secrets, transgender, better leader than he realizes, really impressed by him and looking forward to hearing more in future books
* Kevin: ten years on the base, in charge of logistics-procurement, brilliant, interested in history and words, raised in upper echelons, close to his team
* The family feel of those on the base
* The complexity of the characters, their development, their interactions as a team, and the feel of family and community that they shared
* Commander Morgan: wise, supportive, bulwark of strength, good leader
* The world building that had me understanding what the Dusters were up against in the dystopian world the USA became
* The references to places, music, books, songs from the past
* The futuristic bits interspersed with common things we have today
* Feeling I was part of the story
* The cause that the group were fighting for
* Thinking about the life the people lived and wondering how it would be
* Wanting to know how those outside corporate and not on bases lived
* The growth in the young computer technician brought to the base
* The growth of the friendship and romance between Aidan and Kevin
* The accepting attitude of those living on the base
* The references in the back of the book
* All of it really except

What I didn’t like:
* Who and what I was meant not to like: the seven corporation conglomerates that took over and oppressed the rest
* Thinking about a world like the one Kevin escaped from – did enjoy thinking about taking them down, though

Did I enjoy this book? Yes
Would I read more in this series? Definitely

Thank you to NetGalley and ??? for the ARC – This is my honest review

5 stars
Profile Image for A.L. Lester.
Author 24 books109 followers
February 25, 2021
Series review!

This epic series is set in a near-future where corporate, right-wing America has become it's own behemoth of a political entity that controls most of the resources, with oppression and discrimination as standard. The remains of the more liberal, democratic population live in the cracks, fighting a war without end. It's a grim, dystopian vision of hopelessness and despair.

Obviously our heroes are fighting against the corporations. They are an engaging collection of misfits...found family, getting along for better or for worse, working and living together. There's excellent Queer rep in both the main couple, who's relationship growth is the central part of the books, and in secondary characters.

If you like sci-fi, cyberpunk, queer romance, tension and socking it to the bad guys, I think you'll like this.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,369 reviews103 followers
February 14, 2022
This was all kinds of awesome.
O.E. Tearmann hauls the reader along on a all around entertaining LGBTQ-flavoured cyberpunky near-future dystopia thrillride featuring a ragtag military crew operating off the grid in what used to be the United States and has become a corporation-run hellscape (a veeery unlikely future, I'm sure *ahem*), involving a trans protagonist, a lovely MM romance, a great cast of characters, humour, action, and also, have I mentioned the awesomeness? There's so much to love in this book, it just worked for me on every level. All I have to say is: Next book! Need it! Now!

*** I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. ***
Profile Image for A.L. Kessler.
Author 80 books327 followers
April 1, 2019
Goodness gracious this took me a bit to finish, but not because it was bad, because I have children and reading time is scarce.

The Hands We're given is a great post-apoc world that we can easily see becoming a reality. The author takes great care into how the base survives and stays under the radar without going over your head with technology. The cast of characters is diverse, relatable, and (most the time) lovable. The book has a bit of everything, romance, thriller, humor etc. It was an enjoyable read and I'll be picking up the next in the series.
Profile Image for Pauline Stout.
148 reviews6 followers
January 16, 2023
* Free copy given in exchange for an honest review *

Trigger warnings: transphobia, homophobia, violence, implied SA, implied domestic violence.

In the future Democracy has collapsed in the United States and seven corporations own everything. On the fringes the Democratic State Force fights to overthrow them. One of the most important teams they have has fallen into chaos after the death of their commander. It’s up to Aidan Headly to bring them back to their former glory.

This has to be one of the best sci-fi books I’ve read in a long time. The world building was fantastic. Things are futuristic but not so much that the situation is unrealistic. The tech is explained wonderfully. You feel like your living in the book as you read it. The book really gets into the nitty gritty about what is needed to keep a base like the one in the book up and running and undetected. It’s really a fascinating read.

I love the main characters. Aiden is a trans male and white I’m not trans myself so I can’t say how good the rep is I think his story is very well handled. I just love his relationship with David. It’s amazing and I wish only the best for them. Tweak is my absolute favorite and she has a wonderful story/character arc. Some of the side characters are a little underdeveloped but I’m sure that’s going to be addressed in future sequels. Tbh I wasn’t expecting spicy scenes when I picked this up but they were very well written and not cringy imo.

I listened to this in audiobook format and the recommend it if you see it in that format. The narrator does a fantastic job with the many characters.

Like I said I loved this book. There’s a lot of very heavy subject material sprinkled in so I don’t recommend this for younger readers but I heartily recommend for fans of sci-fi and dystopia of appropriate age. Highly looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,491 reviews27 followers
July 25, 2019
This book is probably better than my personal level of enjoyment indicates. I can't put my finger on what, exactly, was off, or missing, or wrong, or whatever it was that was keeping me from being fully engrossed. This is exactly my kind of book, but it just didn't quite get there somehow, making it seem "good" rather than "great".

Still, I'll look forward to continuing with the series.
Profile Image for Caite*.
2 reviews
January 6, 2019
I really liked this. It was different, and interesting. I’m not usually one for dystopian settings but it was well created here.

Good characters and while the plot is a bit slow I still can’t wait to read more.
Profile Image for Ana Oh.
648 reviews12 followers
March 14, 2019
Unexpectedly Good

I am not sure what exactly I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t this engrossing story.

The author could have easily made a turn down a dark and gritty alleyway, and it would have flowed really well. Maybe that’s a job for fan fiction.

Profile Image for Jason Dias.
Author 28 books41 followers
December 16, 2018
The Hands We’re Given
Plot takes a back seat to story in this military sci-fi with literary aspirations. A new commander takes over a failing special ops unit in the desert. His insecurities threaten to overturn the whole operation until he learns his understated, introverted leadership style is exactly what the Wild Cards need to return to maximum efficiency.
A rag-tag band of paramilitary mercenaries, the Wild Cards represent all the diversity the new Corporate governments refuse to tolerate. That diversity, like the Commander’s introversion, is the unit’s greatest strength; they’re just too grief-stricken and worried to pull together.
My favorite character in this tale is Tweak, a kid from off the Grid whose time in jail gave her serious attitude. Her attitude gets people hurt… but she’s the one with the skills to shake up the war against the corporations.
This is smoothly written and interesting. There are alt sex scenes; I don’t normally care to read them, but they were necessary to the plot – an insider view of anxieties and acceptance. The plot is stop-and-go, as if the authors put it together as they went along (they wouldn’t be the only writers in the world to fly by the seats of their pants) but the story is much stronger than the plot anyway. This is where the literary aspirations come in: Most of the action is internal to the two main characters. They must grow and change to overcome the political and leadership challenges that face them, and to find and accept their families-by-choice in the dust.
Great story. Read it right now.

Here's a video version of the review.
Profile Image for Scribble's Worth Book Reviews.
78 reviews5 followers
April 3, 2022
Graphics are extremely important, and although this book does have a mind-blowing cover, it also does have very interesting graphics and arrangements.

The graphic theme of the book series is clearly directed to game cards, and we see that the cover has the Joker, and the first Chapter, the Ace of Spades, which is intriguing. On top of that, we have the fact that the cards aren’t “as they should be“, there is, a letter on top of the card symbol, which makes us readers ask: Why, and what could it mean? And once you get it, you’ll be like: “I see what you did there”. Hahahahahahahha, NICE!

The book is fast-paced and raw. The thoughts of the characters are well expressed and the narrative is clean with dark-humor marking it in light strokes that are intensified as the book advances.

“He was going to die, and he was spending his last moments deciding on descriptors for his murderer. Funny what the brain did under stress. “

There is an extremely good, short and precise description of the characters and the scenery that is just enough to let you know everything that you need while letting room for to imagine your own version of things.

Not long will pass for us to know the reason of the cards, as the author(s) lets us know, quite quickly about “The Wildcards”, a group of individuals, that have a scary reputation. Maybe they are brutal, maybe they are insane, maybe they are indisciplined, but either way their reputation precedes them and they don’t let the legend down. Interesting…

Not much time passes until we discover, along with our main character why they are so legendary. The Wildcards are, well, WILD! HHAHAHAHHAHAHA, trouble at first sight, and prone to throwing gigantic wrenches. These guys are a commander’s worst nightmare, or…. just what a commander’s first test needs to be.

Ok, so, our main character is not what you expect to be for his role, but this makes the book WAAAY more interesting. We can FEEL his nervousness about everything, his insecurities and his awkwardness (and here’s where it gets cool…) but not because the author tells you that he is unsure and uneasy, but because he shows, gradually, how he feels about the whole situation he is in t! THIS IS AMAZING, and let us just say that it takes a lot of skill to do this without sounding forceful. GREAT JOB by O. E. Tearmann! GREAT JOB!

The characters feel real. Not real as in the “I have a problem that is so perfect that you will know I’m a fictional character that the author want you to feel pity and like me” BUT, the type of real that says: “I’m a person.” The depth of the characters is titanic! You will relate to them at once, and love them in the first instant. WORLD CLASS! This is how you do it. The best of it all is that the problems in the whole book also feels real, the book feels tensely real, OMG! How cool is THAT?!

“I thought Cavanaugh paid for medtech on all their people. You’ve got scars.” The statement came out flat, too blunt, and Aidan immediately wished that he could grab the words out of the air.

After the revelation of the main character and after the book goes a little further, we start to ask ourselves if the placement of the main character, Aidan, wasn’t a bad joke pulled by his superiors in order to ace him out. HAHAHAAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA


Less than 10 pages in and you already fall in love to this book, guaranteed, I mean, once you read further into the book, you get explained, or rather, reminded, about… the beauty of the sounds of words. That’s right, the beauty of the sound, of words. I mean… how, many, books, make, you, think, that?! And have this:

“….. they worked their posteriors off.”

HAHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHA! Posteriors! HAHAHAHAHHHAA lovely! This book is lovely. Seriously. You will love it. So human and family-like, but wild and rough at the same time!

So, there is high tension between some parts, and it’s… interesting to see all the humanistic dynamics, that were exquisitely constructed by the way, taking play as the plot evolves. This happens, not only on the family and friendship side, but on the romantic side as well. The author has sharp eyes, or might we say: sharp fingers, when it comes to body cues and displaying undisclosed messages from characters. *Nods*, Excellently done here. Excellent.

There is a strong, heart-ripping argument against human perfection here, and related to homosexuality that shows the wounds and fears that plague the LGBTQ Community. This is very important, as you will see and feel through the author’s incredible narrative. You will stop in your tracks and take a STRONG, HARD look into things as they are now and realize how close we are to fiction.

“It isn’t easy hearing yourself described as an undesirable element in need of editing out of existence.”

OK! Sure, those are a lot of well-deserved positive comments, but we do have our less-positives comments towards the book, naturally. So, we noticed that although the characters fit for their roles as per their personalities, we did feel that the author could have gotten out of the safe-zone when it came to placement, but given that this is a written book, and it’s awesome, there’s nothing we, or the author can do about it. Lol.

Another thing that caught our eye was the stark relevance put on educational levels of Suzanna it in the short time she appeared. Was it really necessary to target so much spite to the character? Was it really necessary? And in such a soft and lovely book, was it on the right spot? We’ll let readers decide that for themselves. So, back to the goodies 😉 :

The fact that it has trans people, better saying, a trans MAIN CHARACTER is one thing, but to have it deconstructed to the point that we can feel and understand the challenges, fear, difficulties and emotional turmoil of a trans person (because these characters feel like real people) is something completely different.

Imagine the difference between seeing the sea for the first time, and swimming in it for the first time. Yep, that’s about the difference that the author allows us to feel, 100 fold. That’s why we are saying that THIS BOOK IS GLOOOOORIOUS!! FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!! THIS DESERVES AN AWARD!!!! HOLY CRAP!!

And talk about tension uh? Oh my. Now, we’ll be straight with you guys: you shouldn’t expect a lot of action from this book. Most of the tension you will read is emotional and social, BUT, when the action and thriller scenes eventually come, ohhhhh boi, you better be ready! You better be ready! Your heart will be hammering on your throat! Hahahahahahah, daaaaaaammmmn!!!

Yet, I always fail to understand how drones are able to miss, hmmmmm….

This book has some of the most well-explained, accurate, softest and well-written sex scenes one can read. Lovely. Writers have to take notes. Vulnerability 100%!!!! Lots of explicit descriptions too hahahahahahaha. This is really nice!

This first part of the series is very relatable when it comes to relationships, personal doubts, anxiety, uncertainties and how to cope with oneself, one’s problems and how to deal with ourselves, and others. An excellent book! Order your copy now.

You know what ? Order the ENTIRE SERIES hahahhahahhaahahah. Get your audiobook on Audible // AudioBookWormPromotions

EXCELLENT Narrative!
EXCELLENT content and value
EXCELLENT social commentary, impactful
BRILLIANTLY constructed characters and their roles
EXCELLENT body cues
Great character interactions
Great sex and romance scenes
Great tension on the book
Nice ending of this chapter of the book series

The roles of the characters could’ve been better arranged as per the intention of the book and the message of it
The was an implication on the ending half of the book that will strive certain readers hard on the gut that could have been avoided
We feel like one of the main characters, although with all its problems, did follow a cliché(ish) pattern, which bummed some

Favourite Characters: “Omi and Billie”

Lesson of the book: “Keep calm and… use the Socratic method.”

Cover Score: 9.0/10

Book Score: 8.8/10
Profile Image for Eugene Cundiff.
Author 7 books33 followers
September 14, 2018
Okay, let's get this out of the way first - the central characters of this book are predominantly LGBT, and the book contains explicit sex scenes. If either of those things bother you unduly, you've now been warned so you have no one to blame but yourself. You were warned.

The Hands We're Given introduces us to the Wild Cards, the most rebellious band of rebels in the entire rebellion against the pluto-theocratic Hell-hole that once was the United States of America. Having lost their leader and facing decommission from upstairs, their last hope lies in the hands of their last-chance new commander Aidan. They have no confidence in him, and he has even -less- confidence in himself, but if they can make this work they might just be the shot in the arm the flagging resistance needs...

While the plot gets a little uneven for a while in the back, this does reflect the chaotic lives the Wildcards lead: though the Corps are an ever-present threat, the real struggle facing our heroes is the struggle to survive on the edge, one catastrophe away from extinction with the Sword of Damocles over their heads at every moment. The world-building is top-notch, feels eerily plausible, and achieves what any great writer should wish to achieve in the creation of a dystopian future: it inspires a deep, visceral desire to see the world the Corps have made torn down around their ears, and in doing so makes us want to see the protagonists succeed all the more for it.

Those protagonists are memorable, believable, and sympathetic, and while many of them start out as hostile to the point of unlikable when Aidan first meets them, O.E. Tearmann quite masterfully lets them become more-likable for the reader as they come to like and respect Aidan himself, which is a brilliant touch. Ultimately, the Wildcards are what sells this book, more than even the excellent setting and the respectable plotting. I felt for these characters, I liked these characters, and these characters make me want to return to the Aces High, Jokers Wild universe for another go as soon as further books are released. If you like the underdogs, if you're a fan of grounded Cyberpunk, or you enjoy the sort of ragtag-rebel-misfits-living-on-the-edge feel of Firefly/Serenity, you'd be outright gamma not to join this fight.
Profile Image for Teresa.
3,225 reviews35 followers
February 28, 2020
Excellent. Stories involving trans characters can be hit or miss with me. This one really put me in Aiden's shoes and I appreciated the sensitivity the topic was. I also liked that it was another facet of who he was - a very important facet - but not his whole identity. I really liked Kevin as well. He was a complicated man but so very loyal to his base and family.

The dystopian aspect was well thought out and I could almost see us heading there. The descriptions of both on and off grid were compelling and I could see it play out like a movie.

I loved the narration. Kirt Graves did an excellent job!
Profile Image for roma.
327 reviews83 followers
January 2, 2022
i'm screaming at how good this was!!

I loved this book so much, it's about a dystopian world controlled by megacorps a failing ragtag military group fighting against world. Basically we start with Aiden being made in charge of The Wild Cards, an outpost with a reputation and who recently lost their commanding officer.

The found family aspects were brilliantly done and mostly I just felt at home with the writing. It's like we are the outsider alongside Aiden and we find this group of people to belong with and it was a very coming home reading experience.

Also I love seeing the exploration of transness, the worries and anxieties but also the joy and I loved it. Some side characters were well fleshed out like Billy and Tweak but some of the others blended together in my memory? Also loved the romance aspects, it's subtle and takes time as we see the growth with the characters.

The dystopia elements were so plausible and the world was especially scary in terms of how it could just easily be true? It felt like putting a magnifying glass on the current capitalistic hellscape and exploring how queer people and people of color are affected which I really liked.

rep: trans mlm mc, gay mc, side black, asian and latine characters, major black sc with a stutter, side sapphic relationship

content warnings: i don't remember everything but cw's for gender dysphoria, past abuse, sexual content, loss of a loved one
Profile Image for Florinda Grove.
74 reviews
February 26, 2020
Exceptional! Destined to be an all time favorite!
O.E. Tearmann has written a terrific story. The story is strong, genuine and never falters not even for a moment. Commander Aidan Headly captures your attention immediately and your heart soon after. Trying to reunite a group of broken and battered crew while keeping himself together is a challenge he’s not sure he’s prepared for. This dystopian sci-fi romance is peppered with 1980s music references while the characters - queer, trans, gay, lesbian, damaged, traumatized, straight - are just plain humans finding faith in themselves, trust in each other while fighting for freedom for all.
Kurt Graves’ narration of the audiobook is perfect.
-I received a free review copy of this book and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for E.M. Hamill.
Author 10 books88 followers
November 23, 2019

Moving on to book 3 as I type this. Love this series! I am emotionally invested in these characters and their fight against corporate evil. Too real and too scary vision of the future.
Profile Image for Sussu | Kirjakauris.
779 reviews30 followers
December 17, 2022
A ragtag team of misfits gets assigned a green new commander as a last-ditch effort to show that they can work effectively together.

- A literal corporate America in mid 22nd Century, ruled by seven major Corporations
- A diverse cast of characters with a trans man main character
- Found family that finds its way together through difficulty

The writing, the world-building, and the plot

The book takes place in the 2150s in an America which very easily reads as an amplification of the current state of the country we’re seeing. There are seven major Corporations that rule the society that has reformed decades ago as a result of the great Disillusionment. Everything is up for sale and people can be engineered to fit criteria deemed normal and desirable based on the views of each Corporation respectively. Deviancies can be weeded out before birth, and those who end up not fitting the mold are discriminated against based on the values of the Corporation they happen to be owned by.

The plot of this first installment in the series is very much just about team building. We get introduced to a large group of characters who are technically a team but practically a family, and like most families, when tragedy strikes, so does unrest and acting up. Different members of the team are reacting in different, self-destructive ways to the loss of their previous commander, and the arrival of a new team leader in a line of several unsavory commanders is greeted with deep suspicion and distrust.

There’s also a side plot romance between the new commander and one of his underlings, and this relationship also explores the difficulties and anxieties a trans person might go through in their first romantic and sexual relationship after transitioning. I can’t speak to the quality of the representation as anything but a cis person, but personally I found it very insightful. O. E. Tearmann is a pen name of an author duo, and one of the authors is (to my knowledge) a non-binary person, so I’m sure there’s a somewhat personal understanding of body dysmorphia behind the writing.

The characters and their relationships

I found the characters overall well written. Some of them are very likable from the get-go, and others take a little more time for you to come around to them. Much like any decent blood family, sometimes you like them, sometimes you hate them, but at the end of the day you’d give your life for them.

I thought the main romantic relationship was very sweet, and while I usually prefer my sci-fi with minimal romance, I really liked the discussions that were had here. Aidan had his insecurities but both he and Kevin both had the patience and emotional maturity to have the conversations that needed to be had to address those insecurities.

Aidan in general is a really nice character and I’m very jealous of his ability to not be ruled by his emotions when dealing with his underlings. The way I would have flown off the handle so many times trying to corral that pack of feral asshats, and there he goes just taking in deep breaths and not speaking without thinking first. Couldn’t be me.

My reading experience

I liked this book and I’ll be continuing in the series very soon. The only reason this is a four star rather than a five star is the fact that this was so clearly an intro to the actual story. We got to know the cast and some of the world, but very little plot development was actually involved, at least outside of the main romantic relationship. Hopefully, the second book will be done with the introductions and will include a little more action and a more complex plot.

Recommended to

I’d recommend this to people who like the shenanigans of the Firefly kind, and the vibes of Becky Chambers.

I obtained my copy of the book through NetGalley, and the opinions in this review are honest and entirely my own.
Profile Image for Benjamin.
Author 18 books25 followers
July 11, 2022

This book was not what I expected. First, the cover makes it look like it's some kind of heist/hacker book, which it's not. Instead, I got a military sci-fi with heavy LGBTQ+ themes. Second, even if you picked up this book for its gay/trans romance, the only reason it's a "slow burn" is because it starts in the wrong place. Third, even within this post-apocalyptic setting, I had so many moments where things made little sense. It also didn't help that one of the most annoying characters I've read maintained her annoying personality for much too long until they rectified it. Ultimately, this book was not for me.

All this being said, The Hands We're Given is the first book I've read that appears to convey the struggles of a female-to-male transition somewhat accurately. Granted, I'm still confused about the main character's sexual attraction, since it would normally be considered "straight" before their transition, but is now "gay" during/after the transition. This is likely due to my limited understanding of these issues. Still, the sex scenes were probably a bit too spicy for me anyway, regardless of the genders of those taking part in them.

Unfortunately, many other aspects of this book didn't make logical sense. Why does the new commander have such anxiety with these "outcasts" accepting him when he already considers himself an outcast from the society they're fighting? Why don't these outcasts have a bigger grudge against the boyfriend who is clearly from the "genetically superior" society? Why did they always seem to be surprised by common issues like hailstorms? How is it so post-apocalyptic everywhere but in the corporate-controlled cities? In the end, I had too many questions that the book didn't realize it was asking.

A gay/trans romance that tries to be a military sci-fi, I give The Hands We're Given 2.0 stars out of 5.
255px-Five-pointed_star_svg 255px-Five-pointed_star_svg
Profile Image for Lyndsie.
24 reviews2 followers
March 4, 2023
Initially, I had a hard time getting into this book because it started off a bit slow. since it was set in a dystopian world featuring essentially an army unit/base I was expecting, there would be a little more conflict with the enemy initially. I realize that’s not what this book is about, (and this book is very character centric), however, even in the background, I would have loved to have seen or heard about more of the actual conflict, and why they’re fighting.

I did get that the Democratic State Force is trying to subvert the corporations, but how are the corporations permitting them to have such a large operation? Even hiding, I would have thought we would see more corporate movement within the dust, rather than just drones, which, apparently a super easy to avoid.

That being said, I did enjoy the character interactions, and the build up of the character dynamics. I didn’t particularly like Aiden at first, though by about halfway to a little after he became much more compelling. The romance with Kevin was written really well, but the only thing that annoyed me was that the superior/subordinate trope is kinda overplayed and cringe but honestly, I don’t see it being successful any other way so I ended up being ok with it. And it was handled sensitively.

I think what I was hoping for toward the beginning was more of a sense of urgency to drive the book. The initial timeframe was that the commander had four months (I think ?) to turn the guys around, but the timeframe went past four months, which kind of made the story slow down, yet again Third quarter.

Additionally, the pace was more like a gentle ride, rather than a rollercoaster with big ups and downs. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, as that definitely made it a pleasant read, the fact that it lacked any really dramatic low points kind of made the high points less impactful and less exciting to read about.

That being said, it was definitely good escapism. the characters are compelling enough, and the world is interesting enough that I could see myself reading the sequel. Dropping all the books on my TBR list for it, maybe not, but someday if m I keep thinking about it, I would pick it up.
Profile Image for Ronie Reads.
535 reviews3 followers
March 24, 2023
You know the Mills protocol should have been called the Tubman Protocol. Mrs. Harriet would have cold cooked an adult and eyeballed a baby into submission. No one slowed down her train. The greatest conductor in the Underground Railroad's history. I guess the lawyers were like," Nope, can't do that without her families authorization. " bet they explained the proposal all weird. That's how the Mills Protocol came about.

I was so ingrosed, I didn't notice when my planned all night read a thon turned into a slumber party. Had a dream, that I was there with them. Going on a supply mission! Then my alarm clock went off.

Went to work and finished the last of the chapters. Yelp, it sucks finding the section I left off, cause of dropping the book.

I was right...this team is unique. They are allowed to grow, both mentally and in being secure in there decisions involving job performance. No nit-picking or shoot what's the one...it's not helicopter parenting or free range parenting. It's the one where you are on them at every turn. Shoot..

Anyway they are mentored, shown the ropes, and corrected when needed. This creates a team that is confident in their position. You've created an army of individuals working as a team. But will they eventually think they don't really need the commander. Not because of how close he has gotten to team members.

Some supervisor's becomes the friend. Some do it on purpose while others kindness tends to send mixed signals. The latter will get people fired. While the other works to insure lines of communication are open. Then hope for the best. Or end up hiding out in the office cause Protocol isn't being adhered too. It's not life threatening but still not good. Steering that ship will test the soul. Then there is the supervisor that advances into a higher department. Leaving another commander to "clean up". This is where we find out Commander. Whipping this group together while hiding a secret of his own.

I don't know if this was a rant, informative essay, or I just felt too many similarities to my life. Minus the transgender aspect. But is you gay. Happens to be a question I get a lot. I'm not. When it comes to understanding the times we live in. I prefer to be informed not scraficed to the algorithm. #IAWThoughts
Profile Image for Beverly Laude.
1,710 reviews22 followers
April 10, 2021
This was a well written and thought provoking book. I enjoy reading cyberpunk novels and this one had a lot of good elements to it.

Aiden Hedley is a newly appointed Commander to the Jokers Wild squadron. This squad is full of (supposedly) misfit personnel who are constantly in trouble. After their beloved Commander dies from cancer, all other Commanders can't seem to fit into the group or bring about the discipline they need.

The group has a lot of people with their own personal problems, but they are good at what they do. At first, Aiden doesn't think he will be able to fit in and lead this varied group, but he soon finds himself enjoying the work.

I have to say that the book was a slow starter for me and was much different than I thought it would be. While it is a cyberpunk novel about a dystopian future, it was actually more of a romance than I expected. Since I am not a big fan of romance, especially those with a lot of fairly explicit sexual encounters, I was a little disappointed. If I had been reading a physical book, I would have probably skipped a lot of it. That's hard to do with an audiobook, though.

The author handled the more delicate aspects of Aiden in a thoughtful way and I did find this insightful. I also enjoyed witnessing the characters' growth as they began to reveal secrets and trust one another. Tweak was a great character and her coding antics added a bit of humor throughout the book. The book had enough humor and snark to keep it from becoming a downer. I also enjoyed the references to "old" movies and songs and will definitely check out the online playlist since I am a fan of that era of music.

The narrator did a great job with the different voices for the characters and his performance added a lot to the book. I was given the chance to listen to the audiobook version through Story Origins and I chose to review it.
Profile Image for Stephanie   GooglyEyes.
1,160 reviews32 followers
March 5, 2019

This story features a not fully transitioned Trans, F2M, MC.

The author, I think, does a great job on the subject. While some of it made me slightly uncomfortable (at first) it also helped me to understand better. So it's not just a futuristic, dystopian story about survival, but also about self and peer acceptance.

Aidan struggles with being trans, both physically and mentally. He even has an AI psych app that halos in the form of his sister. I wish that were a real thing. Just think of all that guidance in the palm of your hand.

Aside from that struggle, he also now has to struggle in pulling a team that's falling apart together. In finding himself and acceptance with his love interest, he gains the confidence in himself and with guiding the team. He has the patience of a saint, that's for sure.

Now, that all being said. I find that a little hard to believe. Someone who suffers from such lack of confidence and panic attacks, I can't really see them guiding a group of grieving people. Luckily it's fiction, and in that perfect world, they heal themselves while healing others.

I would have loved to see a bit more world building as well. You kind of learned as the story went on, mostly in the form of a little boys poems. While cute, I just wished it had been more elaborated.

I really loved Kevin's obsession with pre-Dissolution culture. Music, movies, books, but mostly lost language. The way he talked, which is how we talk now, is so different than 150 years from now. It seems more poetic and pretty than functional. It also confuses his bunkmates and makes him look a little snooty.

My favorite character has to be Tweak though. I would really love her story, it seems like it would be a crazy ride. Lots of hurt/comfort going on there.
Profile Image for Patricia.
1,592 reviews42 followers
August 27, 2019

The Wildcards are the unit that you go to when you need things done and have no worries on how it get done. Aiden Headly is the one who is in command of this ragtag crew , he really doesn't want to be the commander . Can he get his team to come together and do the job that needs to be done so they can fight for a country that is worth living in .

The characters in this book are well written and very complex . Each member of the team has a mind set that is beneficial for the team. There is more to the characters then just the skills they have . Each member has a well not a secret but there is more to them then meets the eye. Aiden is a trans gender and Kevin is gay and grew up differently then the rest of the team . I truly loved how these characters come together and become the team that they are suppose to be .

The ideals of this dystopian tale are so real . The idea of having the perfect world and pushing those who don't come up to the standards out to the outskirts . This story has it all . We have those who want to fight for the rights for all and those who want those that are different destroyed . I like that the author used LGBT characters and shone a light on those that are different . They are such good characters I was cheering for them all the way through their missions . The book has some great twists and turns that will keep you reading. This isn't a love story but the author does mix a little bit of romance in . There were a few parts in the book that i felt that were slow but over all I truly enjoyed this book and was glad when I found it . So if you want a different story set in a futuristic dystopia book check it out and add it to your fall reading list

Profile Image for Michele.
92 reviews10 followers
December 1, 2020
The Hands We’re Given is the first book in the Aces High, Jokers Wild series. The author, O. E. Tearmann, is a master of character craft. He has written some of the most compelling, complex, and flawed characters that I have read in a long time.

In this future reality, corporations use gene-therapy to create “perfect” humans. Everyone else is disposable. Our team of flawed characters, aka The Wild Cards, is part of the Resistance. They live outside of the metropolitan corporate zones and fight for the right to exist.

The narrator, Kirt Graves, did a phenomenal job! The characters and their personal struggles come to life in his interpretation.

My emotional journey while reading this book reminded me of watching the cult classic Firefly. If you loved Firefly, you will love this book as well.

Don’t forget to check out the series website. You can thank me later.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read complex characters and stories exploring gender identity.

If you like this series, you will probably like the Nevernight series as well.

Sensitivity Warning: Anytime a book contains themes that may be offensive, I prefer to at least know that they are coming ahead of time. If I continue to read, then I take responsibility for my reactions. I very much appreciated the author’s forewarning at the beginning of this book. This book contains graphic non-hetero sex and deeply explores gender identity.

As a person who was raised in an ultra-conservative community, I can only describe this book as eye-opening in a positive way. Your reaction to this exploration is personal and I leave that to you.

Source – I received a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for John Kerry.
590 reviews261 followers
June 23, 2021
O E Tearmann’s futuristic dystopian novel is by far one of his best books. The Hands We're Given is story of survival and humanity, set against the backdrop of a terrifyingly possible near future. It imagines the future where no hope remains. It is an exciting and thrilling book that manages to keep the reader on edge. I'd give this book 4.5 stars because of how well written and entertaining it was. I was gripped throughout. Characters Aidan and Kevin are engrossing, sweet, and completely believable. Their struggles with their pasts-Aidan was Assigned Female at Birth, and Kevin grew up among the very corporations they fight against-were honest and never strayed into melodrama. The description of the landscape throughout is stunning and will most certainly even expand your vocabulary. The Hands We're Given actually managed to make me feel physically sick at times as well as make me cry not only because it was sad but also because i never wanted it to be over. it was the most incredible read and urge every single person to read it!

Amazing narrative with engaging world building , it just so happens to be in this setting. I enjoyed the vagueness of the storyline and characters, a lot to be gained on a retrospective analysis of the book. This book is incredible. The bleak story line is beautifully nuanced and the characters are greatly mysterious, adding a great sense of uncertainty to the entire plot. The author slowly reveals more about the characters' past and relationships, giving even more for the reader to think about. This book is a perfect blend of what you read and what you don't.

Incredible work here, but prepare yourself for what you are about to witness because once "read" it cannot be unread
Highly Recommended!
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