Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interstitial by Ann Somerville

TITLE: Interstitial
AUTHOR: Ann Somerville
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 24k)
GENRE: Gay futuristic sci-fi
COST: $3.50

Captain Sebastien van Hester is coming off a divorce from the man he still loves, so sleeping with his pilot probably isn’t the smartest thing he’s ever done, especially since Jason North has been nursing feelings for him for years. Now they have to spend three weeks together in space, and all Seb wants is to forget the one night-stand ever happened. Trouble is, they’re not the only ones in this romantic tangle. North had a friends with benefits relationship with Jatila Kan, their engineer, until he broke it off right before they left, not knowing she was in love with him. Now, all three are ready to tear into the others, hurt and angry and confused. But an enemy in space is ready to tear into them…

Reading Interstitial is like watching a tightly choreographed pilot for a new sci-fi series. Not one of those cheesy awful ones from the SciFi channel, but something Fox might take a chance with. And you know what? I’d totally watch that show if this was the script for it. This would have been more than enough to fascinate me and tune me in the following week.

Though the romantic entanglements thread through the entire story, they are not the driving force. This is not a romance. This is space opera, in the very best sense of the phrase. The main thrust of the story is our three characters battling the space monsters attacking their ship, as they fight to save the 600 lives on board in stasis. The action is taut and intricately articulated, and the terse prose serves it well by hooking the reader right into the middle of the action. The entire story is presented very cinematically, actually, with short, direct scenes and no extraneous verbiage to detract from the action. Even better, the characters act intelligently, as you would hope trained professionals in this situation would, with their pettiness and bad behavior coming through in comments alone.

Speaking of the characters, it’s a diverse bunch the author has created here. Seb is emotionally reserved and morose, Jati is sharp-witted and insightful, and North is the young man with rose-colored glasses. None are perfect. I like Jati and Seb best, if only because I find North a little too earnest for my tastes. The one thing I would wish for them is a longer story, though. There is a ton of history here, worlds of experiences, and I, as a reader, only get a brief taste of it. I’m not convinced this would have necessarily been a better book if it had been longer, since that would end up protracting the action and spoiling the effects. But I wouldn’t argue about more time spent with these characters at all.

One warning: be careful about paying attention to the time stamps in the first third of the story. It jumps back and forth rapidly, in different storylines before all three finally converge into one. With the scenes as short as they are, it’s easy to lose track, or get a sense of disjoin. Don’t let that deter you. As soon as the threat in space hits, everything coalesces into a smooth, exciting ride you won’t regret taking. Especially if you like a little romantic messiness with your sci-fi.


9/10 – Tightly paced, without a word wasted, the only drawback is the back and forth nature in the beginning that gets abandoned once the action takes place


8/10 – Rich, interesting characters that deserve more than a short novella to fully explore them.


8/10 – The space monster isn’t hugely original, but the world is richly realized and even better, everything makes internal sense.

Entertainment value

8/10 – Taut and quick, it’s cinematically written and presented, which serves it extremely well.

World building

9/10 – Only the brevity of the story keeps this from being a perfect score, with too much rich detail to be completely satisfied.



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