Elias is a researcher on a remote island, working with a small team that is studying the effects of The Change on the plants and animals. Elias’ favorite part of the day is spending time with Jordie, his research assistant. The two of them enjoy swimming together in the ocean and watching the sun set and, in his secret heart, Elias can admit to having feelings for Jordie. However, both men are viratrixes, which means that they should be drawn to progenetrixes, not a fellow viratrix. Elias has always felt different, always felt more like a progenetrix, but he knows he can’t tell anyone for fear of what they would think of him. Elias is just going to keep quiet and enjoy his time with Jordie while he has it, time that is drawing shorter, as Jordie has a great job offer on the mainland.
However, when both men are inadvertently exposed to a progenetrix in heat, it spurs on their viratrix rut. In order to avoid affecting anyone else, Jordie and Elias must stay isolated from others, and end up spending their rut together. Elias is uncertain at first, worried he is going to accidentally expose his desires for submission to Jordie. But when Jordie’s own viratrix nature encourages him to claim and dominate, Elias lets himself go and enjoys the experience. The two men have an intense connection and it gives Elias a sense of what a future between them could be.
However, when it is all over, neither man knows quite how to react. Both Jordie and Elias would love to continue on and build a relationship together, but they are uncertain. Elias feels embarrassed and worried about how Jordie will perceive him, now that he knows the truth about Elias’ nature. He also knows that Jordie will likely be leaving soon and doesn’t want his heart broken. Jordie is unsure about whether Elias truly wants him now that rut is over. And both men have to face the reactions of their co-workers and friends if their non-traditional relationship is exposed. Now, Elias and Jordie have to take a chance on reaching for what they really want, be honest with their feelings, and work toward a future together.
Rut is an omegaverse-style story set in a post-apocalyptic world. I found the world building here particularly interesting, as the story takes place in a world two hundred years after an asteroid hit Earth and killed most of the population. The asteroid brought with it alien DNA, so it changed the remaining humans, plants, and animals. In the case of humans, it caused a gender variation, creating a quaternary system, rather than a binary. In addition to being either male or female, people also are either viratrix or progenetrix. Viratrix are more the more dominant partner and have tentacles, while progenetrix are more submissive and have feelers. So while this isn’t a traditional omegaverse, there is very much that vibe here.
As with many of their stories, Morrison explores gender identity, in this case through this viratrix/progenetrix lens. In the case of Jordie and Elias, they are both viratrix, but Elias identifies more as a progenetrix. Society says he should want to claim and dominate, to be the more aggressive partner, but all he wants is to be claimed and cared for and to take the more submissive role. When they are in rut, it is easier for Elias to let out his true nature, as Jordie is so consumed by his innate need to claim. But once the dust settles, Elias has some major insecurities about sharing who he really is with Jordie. For his part, Jordie is open and accepting once he better understands the situation. He has some of his own apprehensions, particularly given the small community in which they live. But, overall, Jordie helps to give Elias the confidence to be himself and there is a nice dynamic between them.
While the world building here is overall really creative and unique, there are elements that were not as well developed in terms of the viratrixes/progenetrixes. The story opens up with a quick glimpse into the close friendship between Jordie and Elias, and then almost immediately the rut starts and we get a long portion of the two men having sex. It would have helped me to have more information at this point about what it means to be a viratrix or progenetrix in terms of their typical traits, so that when we see Elias acting differently, the significance felt more clear. I also never really could picture what they looked like or their body type differences. I could envision tentacles on the viratrixes, but I still can’t understand what the “feelers” are on progenetrixes. These appendages are used both as sensory organs, as well as playing a role in gender identity, so understanding the physiology felt important to the story. We do get some more detail later on in the book, but I feel like the rush to get these guys into bed means that some of these intense early moments happen before a lot is explained. This was originally a short story that has been expanded, and I wonder if that affected the pacing of the book now. But we just jump into the physical so fast, there isn’t a lot of time to really understand the nuances of their dynamic until later in the story. FWIW, this book does have tentacle sex, as well as other non-human elements (mentions of slime, for example, which wasn’t my thing), so be aware to expect a lot of that dynamic here.
I think this is an interesting story with some creative world building. I liked how Morrison uses the framework of both the Change, as well as these variations on gender, to explore some real world gender issues. I did need a little more time taken to set up the world building here, as well as more depth overall in the story for it to fully come together for me. However, Jordie and Elias are an appealing couple and I enjoyed the story. This is a nice option for those who enjoy omegaverse stories and are interested in the post-apocalyptic take.