Vance Steward is a fighter pilot on a cruiser headed for Mars. He’s befriended an alien, Luenos, who is a tall, dark, claw-bearing humanoid with no eyes and whose only communication comes by way of telepathy with Vance. The rest of the crew, including Vance’s elder and cruelly overbearing brother, Maxwell, thinks Luenos is a danger to the ship. They recently took him in when a space kraken attacked, capturing their commanding officer and damaging their ship. Vance is sure that Luenos is a good soul, and wants to help this lost creature despite the misgivings of his crew—they can’t hear how afraid and gentle Luenos is, and don’t trust their telepathy.
A new alien is recovered in space and it turns out this monster, Vikhir, is a mortal enemy of Luenos. Vikhir is a prince in his realm, and he’s also mighty handy with the tech. When Vance loses a leg in battle Vikhir is able to fashion him a new one. He also volunteers to work on the ship’s damaged engine, and has a real attraction to Vance.
Vance isn’t sure how to manage this: his attraction to both Vikhir and Luenos. It’s a mutually exclusive situation, and his choices may not be entirely his own. The story takes a rather dangerous turn, with quite sinister happenings propelling the action toward the climax and huge showdown.
For me, the plotting of this story was chaotic, and the descriptions were lackluster and too intense, by turns. One moment, I can’t picture anything; the next, I’m overwhelmed by over-baked images. I though it was interesting how Vance handles the many curveballs he’s thrown in this one, but it almost seemed too easy for him to accept any of the vast changes he experiences. His rivalry with Maxwell seemed another example of way too much drama. I was also a little put off by the dialogue at times, because it seemed too contemporary for this space-opera type of story. The sexytimes were…alien to me, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. I had trouble tracking what happened when, as there are some anatomical issues I couldn’t quite envision based on the text. Also the sex doesn’t always seem as if it is fully-consensual; one of the aliens has saliva that can be borderline hypnotic…
There’s a reason sci-fi books are usually longer than average: the author needs to build a world the reader can imagine. I felt that world building here was skipped in favor of action, but that left me feeling disconnected. Why would I care that a crew member dies on page two? I don’t know that character, and have no attachment to the situation. For me, the plot was unnecessarily convoluted and I struggled to continue reading at points as a result.