Buy Link: Trust Me
Author: Elizabeth Hyder
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Length: Short Story
Trust Me was originally published in June as part of the Wild Passions anthology and five of the stories are now being released individually. The anthology features stories about anthropomorphic characters, which isn’t necessarily my usual reading style, but I was really intrigued by the blurb for this one so I decided to give it a go and I am really glad I did.
Koit is a student at the Moravec Academy, studying at the space station to be a pilot. His dating life is a series of shallow exchanges with random women he cares little about. His closest childhood friend Sera decides what Koit really needs to broaden his dating horizons. She signs him up for a website for those who enjoy a lot of oral with their sex, if you catch my drift. The site is primarily frequented by men and Sera thinks this might be exactly what Koit needs to find what he is really looking for.
At first Koit is freaked and annoyed at Sera. He is not anti-gay (Sera is a lesbian and his dad is gay) but he has never thought of himself as attracted to men and it definitely affects his image of himself. He is willing to admit that the issue is all in his mind though, as his body does thrill a bit at the idea of getting together with a guy, but he is not sure he is mentally ready. Most of the guys who email him from the site come across like idiots, and the one that looks promising won’t put up with Koit’s grouchy response so it goes nowhere.
Koit finally decides to just go for it and heads over to a gay bar to get some action that way. He has a couple of encounters with various men, and finds while he has no problem with kissing a guy or being on the receiving end of oral sex (not all that different from being with girls, he figures), he is still not comfortable doing the giving. Just when he thinks it is time to forget this whole idea, he agrees on one blind date setup by Sera. It turns out this one might just be the perfect match.
I really liked this story and thought it was a nice bridge between a contemporary story and a more science fiction style, which was good for me as someone not used to reading about nonhuman characters. Koit is part human, part Shterpi, giving him scales on part of his arms and back, no hair, and making him unusually well endowed (but of course). Yet with the exception of some mild power to sort of “boost” people’s emotions and these physical differences, he is essentially human. There are a few other characters that are partially nonhuman, but again this primarily manifests itself as mild physical differences. With the exception of the setting, this feels a lot like a contemporary story. In fact, although it is sort of science fiction with the space station and all that, it is very light on the world building. This didn’t bother me at all (and in fact I liked that in such a short story since you don’t need to spend a lot of time explaining things), but I point it out because most of the story feels very familiar to modern day.
One thing that is interesting to note is that Koit doesn’t meet “the one” until about halfway through the book. He hooks up with other people before that (both male and female) and his interaction with the men is described in a pretty detailed way. This didn’t bother me at all as I think it was necessarily for Koit to come to terms with his reaction to men before he was ready to meet the right guy. The other experiences served to get Koit to recognize and get comfortable with his feelings so when the right person comes along he is ready to act on it. But I know some folks don’t like our heroes getting it on with anyone but each other so I wanted to mention it.
So I really liked the way this book is sort of a mix between a coming out story and an out for you story, but not quite really either. Koit doesn’t ever really identify as gay or “come out” in the book, although clearly he has an awakening of homosexual feelings and feels attraction to a variety of men. Yet although he has encounters with other guys in the story, it is that one special person who allows him to take things from liking the idea to really feeling comfortable with the full sexual interaction with a man. And I like that it wasn’t an easy thing for him and the whole thing is a process, not just one day waking up and realizing he is gay.
One area I thought could use improvement is the idea of Koit’s powers of suggestion or the ability to sort of magnify other’s feelings. It is introduced and discussed several times, but it never really goes anywhere. On one hand it helps to show a way he is different than full humans. But if it is going to come up repeatedly, I guess I wanted to see it impact the story in some way. I’ll also just point out I would classify this as an HFN not an HEA story, only because the relationship doesn’t have that much time to develop. This felt very natural and a quick declaration of true love would have been totally out of place, but I just wanted to mention it.
Overall I enjoyed this story and really liked following along with Koit and his journey of self-discovery. For those of you who, like me, are a bit wary of stories featuring non-humans, I think this is a great way to jump into it. It has a very contemporary feel and one that I think most people would be comfortable with and enjoy. I know that I did.
Cover Note: This cover is actually for the anthology and not specific to this book. This is not the way the characters in this story are described, fwiw. Pretty cover though!