It’s been a while since Will has seen his friend Eric. Of course, that may be because Eric lives on a spaceship with his partner—an Iska alien named Keeska. The Iska are a non-gender/asexual race with their own language that trade with other species around the galaxy. Eric met and fell in love with Keeska and has been living in space ever since. That means Will only gets to see Eric a few times a year. When Eric arrives on Earth for a planned camping trip, Will surprises him with the news that he will be going back with him for a month-long visit. The pilot/mechanic Ticheck is the only other person on board as they rocket toward the space station that will be home to Will for the next thirty days.
Ticheck is known for his grumpy, unapproachable attitude, but Will and he hit it off right away. An unforeseen number of visitors to the ship means Will is going to have to bunk in with Ticheck and, before long, the two of them become good friends with Will helping out in the cargo bay unloading shuttles and essentially becoming Ticheck’s right hand man. In just a few short weeks, their friendship develops into something more and for the first time Ticheck can imagine himself with a life partner—now if only Will were not scheduled to return to Earth.
In the second novel of the Iska Universe series, Geneva Vand returns to space, this time with Eric’s best friend, Will, as the central character. Will is also asexual—never needing or feeling comfortable with sexual acts to have intimacy with one he loves, but very much looking for someone with whom he can share deep affection and love, as well as close physical contact. In Roommates and Space Trees, we watch as Ticheck and Will move from mere acquaintances, to friends, to more. Before I go any further, you may want to know that this is a beautifully rich romance with absolutely no sex whatsoever—even the kissing is only on the cheek. Frankly, Will and Ticheck’s growing relationship is not at all negatively affected by that; I thoroughly enjoyed watching these two grow together and never once thought sex would add anything to the story overall. In fact, I was really taken with how Will cared for Ticheck and brought him out of his shell. He saw what no one else could see—the sweet being beneath the rough exterior.
There were a few problems I encountered in the novel along the way. Even for an advanced reader copy, there were lots of errors, with words missing or added that made the sentence hard to understand. Then there was the way Vand uses the Iska language references for “they” and “their,” which were “eet” and “ta.” Unfortunately, that sometimes falls off and the English is used instead, further muddling the pronoun dilemma. I really found it difficult to read the Iska pronouns, mainly because there are already so many Iska names and descriptive labels for things utilized in the story. It became cumbersome to translate in my head exactly what pronoun was being used at what time.
The other issue I had is that the author states this can be read as a standalone; I really have to disagree with that. I did not read the first book in this series and, quite frankly, I was lost for the first few chapters as this part of the story focused more on Eric and Keeska, rather than Will and Ticheck. Plus, Keeska has three parents, so they are in the mix as well. All these characters were introduced in the prior installment and I felt the author made too many assumptions that most reading this second story were familiar with the them. There was little to no recap of the first novel to establish who everyone was and how they were interrelated.
Roommates and Space Trees is a fascinating sci-fi story with compelling characters who happen to present on the part of the spectrum we rarely read about. I love that both Will and Ticheck are asexual and create such an atmosphere of love and peace around themselves and their relationship. Despite the issues I had with this novel, I still feel it is a very entertaining read and a delightful romance.