Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Short Story

 

The life of a wildcatter is tough, bouncing through the solar system mining minerals while hopefully avoiding pirates. It gets lonely in the void of space and, to cope, ‘catter Grayson Eck turns to his alter ego, Valeriana Storm, drag queen superstar of the galaxy. The popular diva’s streams earn Grayson almost as much as his asteroid mining does…and a good thing, too. On his most recent trip to pick up a cache of platinum, Grayson discovers not only that someone has tampered with his mining rig, but the fool got himself knocked out for his trouble. Leaving the would-be thief stranded with no way off the rock is one option, but Grayson realizes just how young his man is. Instead, Grayson hauls the interloper to his ship, content to drop him off at the nearest space station.

If finding an unconscious man messing with his minerals was a surprise, then the man’s true identity is a shock—an unexpected blast from Grayson’s past who knows far more about Grayson than anyone reasonably could. But before there can be any celebrating their reunion, Grayson has to deal with murderous pirates and a challenging ex. Both encounters have Grayson rethinking his life as a wildcatter.

Flawless is a short space-opera from author J. Scott Coatsworth. While this is out and out a futuristic space opera, the world building in Flawless is a fun amalgamation of present and future. References to 21st century culture and media like “Mother Ru” and “Drag Race” mix with tridee and flatties (TV and movies respectively). There’s also a solid vernacular that reinforces the idea that space travel is common in this story. Taken together, this language helped build a world that is both familiar and new. Against this backdrop, our narrator and star Grayson shines as a competent man faced with a series of wildly unexpected events, plus an intimate look into the transformative power of Valeriana.

The first unexpected event is that Grayson finds someone had attempted to steal his cache of platinum. The second is that Grayson and his new guest encounter dangerous pirates…the very same pirates Grayson had tangled with on at least one prior occasion to disastrous ends. I really enjoyed the potential this pirate attack represented. We learn more wrenching details about Grayson’s lost partner, someone who is never very far from his thoughts. Not only that, but the timing was tantalizing and gave me some hope that the pirates might offer more than a blast of misery. Plus, the whole scene was a chance to see Grayson shine as a competent spaceship captain.

Overall, Flawless was a fun read. My one criticism is that the flow of events feels a little impersonal. The stranger Grayson finds isn’t really a stranger, but I never quite felt like the two characters gelled together. Similarly, Grayson’s drag identity is wonderful, but I wasn’t sure how her on-page appearance did anything more than leave me wondering why Grayson would reveal that side of himself to a stranger whose identity he is unsure of. Nevertheless, I was still delighted that the elements of the story challenged expectations: our star is a bit older at 50-ish and the story’s focus is not romance, but connection. If you are interested in a slice-of-life story set in space with a little drag thrown in, I think you’ll love this story.