Rating: 2.5 stars
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The unwanteds, that’s what people call those who make up the lowest of society. The prostitutes, the drug users, the poor, the discarded, and the dying. Shots, Derek, Ambrosia, Renzo, and Sara are all young prostitutes. In addition, they picked up Joel, a gay teenager thrown out of his house because of his sexuality. Together they form a family, willing to do any to keep each other safe and fed. Unfortunately, Derek is sick. He contracted the deadly VIS virus and is moving into the final stages of the disease. The group is barely scraping by when an encounter with an alien john changes everything for all of them.
Recently a race of aliens called Narsoreal made contact and landed on Earth. In three years time, several major diseases were cured and human technology advanced because of Narsoreal information and assistance. In return, the alien race asked to collect and bond with humans who are genetically predisposed towards symbiosis with the Narsoreal. For the governments of the world, only the unwanted were viewed as available for collection and bonding.
When Shots picks up a john called Alimund a Norsoreal, Shots changes not only his life, but the lives of everyone in his small family of unwanteds. Because for each one of them, there is a Narsoreal who is their bondmate, if only they will accept them.
There is so much promise buried within The Unwanted that I wanted to rate it much higher than it deserves. Originally, each Unwanted had their own story released separately, then a collection of all the stories was published. And it is much easier to read as a collection than they would have been individually, if for no other reason than the flow of the narrative works better. Unfortunately, whether it is as a collection or separate short stories, there are just so many issues and missed opportunities that I have to give The Unwanted a fail.
Let’s start with one of the most basic issues, the world building. It just doesn’t make any sense nor does it feel “alien” in any manner. Jameson makes the aliens and their planet pretty much just like us, only with a few alterations that are so unbelievable that they further disconnected me from the Narsoreal and these stories. The aliens land because they are looking for love. They bring advanced technology, enough to cure some diseases but not VIS, or at least that’s the accepted knowledge. There’s some nonsense about not having the right materials for them to help us build space ships (a throw away line that makes no sense either), but really the author makes no attempt to give us anything authentically alien. Not the people, not their abilities (more on that later), not even their technology. And when we do find out what elements make them “different” from us, its laughable. Really the Narsoreal are dubious creations that feel poorly thought out. If you are going to create aliens, complete with alien physiology and culture, then make it believable. Don’t make them a reflection of juvenile wants and desires, a cardboard alien worthy of a Space Hooters or sex doll.
That brings us to characterization or the lack of it. The only members of the Unwanted that come close to being a layered personalities are Shots and Ambrosia, with Ambrosia being my pick of the litter. The rest of the small group of prostitutes and discarded never rise above a character outline. They certainly have no credibility as young people who have been abused, abandoned, and made to prostitute themselves as the only means to survive. As a described by the author, this group has seen it all from their lowly position on the streets, but they never show any sort of desperation or emotions that would reflect this status. Its more what they say they are then what actually comes across, and that’s a huge fault when it comes to characterization.
But if they are bad, then the aliens are so much worse. The really only alien thing about them is that they physically morph or their body changes (permanently) according to the wishes of their bondmate. Of course, they don’t tell their human bondmates that fact. So one ends up looking like Legolas with long white hair and elf ears. Another ends up with wings, and another with a penis and a vagina. *shakes head* Of course, there is no continuity here. So one alien is another species, a worker bee, who doesn’t change. Which is a good thing, because his human bondmate thinks he looks like a bulldog. Awkward. But if there were any logic to this, then it would be the worker class who would change their physiology, to better help them shoulder the load so to speak. Another thing is that these aliens are rich. So you have rich aliens who change their physical state according to their lovers wishes? And the upper echelon of the world’s societies doesn’t want them to bond with? That makes no sense either. Who among the rich wouldn’t want a mate who is rich, changes according to your desires, and cures diseases by their bond. Oops, did I forget that exchanging fluids with these aliens cures every disease you could humanly have? The Narsoreal are a kind of one stop shopping for any of your sexual, emotional, financial, and pharmaceutical needs. Do they have personalities too? Not really because how could they? They aren’t real in any respect, merely objects that reflect the needs and desires of their human companions.
And that’s both my problem with these stories and the promise I see as well. Had these stories been a treatise of the objectification of others, or a humorous take on loving yourself, or some sort of allegory about making love to one’s dreams, that would have been one thing. All the elements are there for any of those takes on the human condition or maybe just an alien comedy. All but one human changes the alien into the lover of their dreams and that one can’t because that alien’s different? It’s all instant love and instant bonding. But how is that believable love if you change them almost immediately without getting to know them? These humans don’t love the aliens, they love what the alien becomes. What a great subject for these stories! But was that ever addressed any where? No. I mean even their cum changes from purple grape flavor to black licorice, a sort of Skittles of choices. Oh look, he shoots purple jism, If that’s not a juvenile giggle fest in the making I don’t know what is. If you were the alien, wouldn’t you be a teensy bit upset over wings, a purple penis, purple nipples, and purple grape tasting cum? That other alien has it worse, his human loves the color pink. But as written, the Narsoreal are both intergalactic doormats and any teenager’s sexual wet dream mashed up together.
Add to that just awful dialog. The aliens say things like “Yes, my treasure, I will change for you. I will become whatever pleases you most, my prince, my darling.” Or to Joel Flowers, “I will be your giant if you will be my flower.” The group explains it away as the aliens speak “formally.” No, that’s bad romance talking, not Downton Abbey.
Add all of that up from the terrible world building, poor characterization, cheesy dialog, and a plot with promise that misses on every level, and you have a collection of stories I can’t recommend. I think that’s one of the problems when you self publish, not enough eyes and assistance (read that as editing) for the author and their writing. I hope that the next stories from Westbrooke Jameson achieve the promise I saw here.
Cover Design by Morris Duncan. The cover makes no sense either. No aliens, nothing other than an alley? Consider the cover a missed opportunity too.