Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 6 hours
Pykh and Siel are slaves, held captive by a race of bug aliens. They are cage mates and lovers and they look out for one another against the cruel treatment by their overlords. When another captive is brought into their cage area, Pykh is immediately drawn to him. He is attracted to the man and wants to take care of him, as well as to have sex with him. Siel tells Pykh that the man is a “human omega,” a prized species that is to be revered and treated with the utmost care and reverence. When the man is brought into their cage, both Pykh and Siel are determined to do all they can to protect him.
Carter is a space marine who was captured during an attack. He knows the military isn’t going to be looking for him — once captured, virtually no one is ever rescued — so his only hope of survival is himself and the two cat-like alien guys in his cage. Fortunately, they seem to have taken a liking to him. While the aliens, who Carter has dubbed “Nibbler” (because at first Carter thinks he is going to bite him) and “Pitcher” (obvious reasons) can communicate with each other, they don’t speak a language Carter understands. But they manage to eke by with some rudimentary communication, nonetheless.
Things are looking dire as Pykh realizes Carter may be in more danger than they first thought. He and Siel are determined to protect their omega, regardless of the cost. But if they all work together, they may just find a way for them all to make it out alive.
So full disclosure here: I picked up this audiobook pretty much exclusively because narrator Joel Leslie told me that it was a lot of fun (and it was). But this is not a book I ever would have tried on my own, between the crazy title and the over-the-top blurb. So I went into this one optimistic and eager to check it out, but it’s definitely not in my usual wheelhouse by any stretch.
What I found was a mix of some really interesting and fun elements, as well as some things that didn’t fully work for me. So on the positive end, I think Eileen Glass does a nice job giving us three distinct characters and building the story around their POVs very well. Even among the two alien slaves, the characters feel different from one another. Pykh was born into slavery and has never known any other life. So he has a naiveté that comes from lack of experience with the outside world. At the same time, he has familiarity with his captors and is the only one who understands their language, though only on a basic level. Siel was captured later in life, so while he has been a slave for a while, he remembers outside life and has a world experience Pykh does not. They two are protective and caring over one another, and Glass gives them a nice connection where we can really feel their relationship dynamic. Then we have Carter, who is completely out of his element, but who has a practicality that works well here, with a bit of wry humor to him.
The three of them make an interesting trio, particularly because of the language barrier between Carter and the other two. Glass does a nice job of building conflict as Pykh and Siel are able to discuss their predicament, have a basic understanding of what the guards are saying through Pykh, and communicate with each other. However, Carter not only is out of his element completely as a new captive, but he can’t really understand Pykh and Siel. So there are some interesting moments when the men are working at cross purposes because they are unable to make the other understand what they are doing and why. It adds some nice tension and a bit of humor, particularly with regard to their personal relationship.
The world building here is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, we get a lot of nice detail into the type of creatures Pykh and Siel are, as well as the bug-like overlords (though we are never given a species name). And we get some broad brush explanation of the fact that these bug guys are taking over and attacking everyone. We also get some nice details into the world itself, such as the flora and fauna. But there are also some gaps in the world building that I missed. For example, we never see any other slaves the entire book, though we get references that there are other slaves out there (former cage-mates who have been killed, slaves Pykh was raised with, etc). Yet these are the only three slaves we ever actually see the entire story, which left me wondering what all these guards and bug-alien folks are doing there. I also felt confusion about Carter. We know he is a “space marine” and there is a clear implication that he is human, though it is never explicitly stated. However, Siel tells Pykh that Carter is an “omega” and that he can have children, though Carter doesn’t seem to see himself as such. There is no mpreg in this book, and honestly, I was never clear if Carter actually IS an omega and can get pregnant, or if Pykh and Siel just think he is. It was just too vague, as were some of the other world building elements.
The thing that was my biggest hurdle here was that the story leaned too far from quirky and campy into overwrought drama for me. Pykh sees Carter and immediately not only wants to have sex with him, but is essentially in love with him at first sight. Within a day, so is Siel. This is with essentially no communication at all between them. I can believe a sense of protectiveness, as well as attraction, but I never felt anything close to actual romance. Siel tells Pykh that omegas are fragile and delicate and to be doted on and cherished. The two are immediately obsessed with Carter and willing to lay down their lives for him within hours. They treat him with this overwhelming sense of reverence, falling all over themselves to do what they think is his bidding. It is just this weird juxtaposition of their obsessive idolization of him, while Carter seems to see them with nothing more than friendly appreciation. Siel, in particular, has some super dramatic moments where he wants to lay down his life for Carter, flagellating himself for perceived failures to be the perfect caretaker of this prized omega (and in turn berating Pykh for his perceived failures to do the same). It is just so over the top and nothing about the romantic relationship among the three of them really worked for me, nor did I enjoy the more dramatic, overly reverent aspects of Pykh and Siel’s behaviors.
My last complaint is that this story pretty much just ends unresolved. While I knew it was the first in a series, I didn’t expect that the book would be unfinished, but it is really just part one and the story just stops mid-journey. There really isn’t any closure or sense of a natural stopping point. I had lost track of timing and suddenly the book just ended and I actually said “what?” out loud in my car because it felt so abrupt and unexpected. So you really need to be committed to reading/listening on to further books if you want the full story as you won’t get any resolution here.
As I said, I picked this up pretty much solely on the basis of narrator Joel Leslie’s recommendation, and for all my issues with the story itself, I can confidently say that Leslie really elevated this book above the story alone. His narration really gives things a sense of gravitas that I think the book needs to keep it from just feeling totally crazy. There were many moments where I thought to myself, this passage would be kind of eye rolling if I was reading it, but something about the narration just made it work. Maybe it’s because Leslie gives the cat aliens British accents (and doesn’t everything sound fancier in a British accent?), but there is just a depth to the narration that I really think carries the story. Pykh and Siel do sound a little similar to my untrained ear, but the chapters identify the POV speaker so that wasn’t really a problem. Carter’s voice feels spot on for his character and really captures his humor and his occasional exasperation with his situation. So I really enjoyed the narration and I felt like I was able to get absorbed into the story in a way I’m not sure I could have from just reading it. If you are going to check this one out, I would definitely recommend giving the audiobook a try.
So Human Omega had some nice, unique elements that made me glad I gave this book a chance, but I didn’t fully fall for it. The romance itself didn’t really come together for me in a believable way among the three of them, and I was disappointed by the abrupt ending that left an unfinished story. So sort of a mixed bag for me, but I enjoyed the narration and this was a fun way to branch out a little on my usual reading fare.