Leah is a human female who’s survived the aftermath of the great environmental breakdowns on Earth, which is deep in the midst of disintegrating from human overuse and over-industrialization. Leah survived the flash floods that presumably killed her parents and has inherited a warehouse of woven textiles, convenience foods, and pottery her family had sold in tradepost-type shops.
There are alien species that have interest in the human females—particularly Xyranians and Alphans, warring civilizations that have made contact with Earth. Males from both Xyran and Alpha are humanoid, and able and willing to breed human females. Leah has met women returned to Earth who were Xyranian sex slaves, and she’s disgusted by the Alpha bride lotteries that accept only young, attractive, fertile females to be transported to Alpha for the purpose of repopulating that planet. Alpha female births have declined in recent generations. So, Leah’s dearest hope is to find a planet that will accept human refugees who would not find comfort or salvation with Xyranians or Alphans.
Twenty months ago, Leah convinced a trade ship of Vagnashians to take her and some of her wares aboard to trade in their journeys. The Vagnashians survive in a sulfur dioxide-rish atmosphere, so they retrofitted a small berth and airlock to provide Leah the nitrogen/oxygen mix of air to breathe while in her chambers. When they encounter friendly traders, Leah dons a spacesuit, enters the toxic air of the ship proper, and trades for credits that she may be able to use to pay the transit of humans to the mythical planet she hopes to discover.
On one such occasion, Leah encounters Gelar and Nalan, the only crew aboard their Alphan scout ship. Their mission is to traverse a sector of space, document the planets and signs of life, and report if Xyranians are encroaching toward Alpha. Gelar and Nalan are taken by both Leah’s human femininity and her trade goods. Though they are bondmates to one another, they are definitely interested in the prospect of mating with Leah. Because they share one of the two cabins on the scout ship, they offer the second one to Leah, if she would like to go with them. She is nervous, still fearing she might be forced into sex slavery, but the prospect of finding a new world is a shiny promise she can’t ignore. And, she’s excited to be taken onto a ship where she won’t have the toxic environment that could kill her ever present.
Isolation is a MMF novella, and in the course of days aboard Gelar and Nalan’s ship, Leah is not only more comfortable than she has been in space, but she’s also very much accustomed to her Alphan shipmates. The pairings are MM, MMF and MF. Yes, these three really are making the most of thier isolated time aboard ship. However, when they encounter a planet with the potential for supporting human life, their fledgling bond all goes to crap. The Alphans are a subsistence society. They take from their planet in a sustainable way and they recognize that humans are less willing to live hard off the land, in a responsible way, than to damage their environment out of convenience. And, they argue (reasonably) why should humans get another planet to ruin, anyway? It burns up Leah something fierce, and she tries to defend the humans who would potentially live a responsible life—and takes out her fear and anger on Gelar, because he’s the healthiest of the Alphan pair. It’s actually unfair, and Leah’s on a borderline irrational course. The saving grace is her “revenge” is just hard and angry sex, so, you know, it’s manageable. And, of course, when they make up it’s just passionate menage sex.
This is an interesting space sex odyssey, but the general premise really didn’t make too much sense. How is this mid-20s human woman going to trade enough blankets and vases to aliens to scrape together funds to transplant billions of humans to an undiscovered planet? How is she able to protect her interests on Earth while being a one-woman Walmart out in space? Why would the Alphan king—that Gelar and Nalan promise she will get to petition—give one good thought to aiding the beleaguered older and non-female humans? He already has a brisk trade in healthy human brides, after all. I try not to be too critical of plots I know to simply be a vehicle for MMF relationship-building, but this story had a lot of holes, especially for futuristic, scifi-type stories. I did respect the science of air quality, and how the Alphas are nominally different from humans, having short stubby horns and retractable fangs they use in mating. I never really understood the Xyranians, and I didn’t get their feud with the Alphans, or why/how the Xyranians came by their sex slaves. It’s a novella, however, and the story might have been richer if some of the political dynamics had been explored. Part of this disconnect for me may be that this is book 16 of a larger series of novellas, and there’s already a lot of plot knowledge assumed for the reader. As I’m new to the series, I didn’t have the continuity that was assumed.
If you like space travel and menage stories, this one might be a good one for you. I think the author’s focus was on having there be a stable M/M relationship that the third (female) added to, not detracted from, and this worked for me. Leah’s sexual skills were brought to bear as a tutor to Gelar, so he can better please his mate, and they all have a lot of sexy fun together. Some of the hardest parts for me to digest had to do with the absence of any discussion about conception, contraception, or protection though. It made me think that space is a bad place to find oneself nursing infection due to unsanitary sex practices, y’all.