Friday, May 9, 2008

Poison by Joely Skye

TITLE: Poison
AUTHOR: Joely Skye
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 66k)
GENRE: Gay futuristic erotic romance
COST: $5.50

Alliance member Geln Marac has a mission – hang out on Rimania and gather information they can use to open trade routes between the low-tech planet and the Alliance. His attempts to stay on the periphery go out the window when he saves the life of a young man of the elite. In fact, everything seems to change completely after he meets Tobias Smator, including betrayal, temporary mindwipes, and Alliance spies going rogue. The last thing he should do is encourage Tobias’ crush on him, but Tobias just might be Geln’s last hope…

This isn’t a story for a quick, fluffy read. Densely plotted, it has a broad cast of characters in worlds different from present-day Earth that demands a reader pay attention. If you don’t, you’ll get lost. There is too much going on – and too little explained before the next twist comes – to simply skim. I’d likely call this more of a gay futuristic story than a romance, even. The romance between Tobias and Geln doesn’t come fully into play until well over halfway through the story, and when it does, it feels jarringly out of place. I suspect it’s because it takes so long to develop. While taking the time to set the plot in motion and keep the characters from just tumbling into bed is a good thing, in this case, it works against the story’s favor. It’s not that I wanted them to get involved sooner. I didn’t. But when they do come together, there are several chapters devoted to their new physical involvement that leaves the rest of the story stalled. They’re competently written; they just seem to spring up from nowhere and divert the focus.

This might be because I was more invested in the espionage aspect of the plot rather than the romantic one. As romantic heroes, I couldn’t fall for either of the two leads. Tobias is young and frightfully inexperienced, so much so that he comes across as a trifle dumb. He seems to end up on the wrong end of the bad guy’s attention too often, being knocked out more than once throughout the course of the story. It doesn’t help that so many of the other characters call him slow, either. Even Geln recognizes just how innocent and green Tobias is.

Geln, on the other hand, is a terrible spy. He’s quite histrionic in the first half of the story, and manipulative in the latter, especially when he takes advantage of Tobias’ crush for his own benefit. It’s difficult to find endearing qualities in him that would make me view him in a romantic light. I did like how gentle he was with Tobias, however. Though the romantic aspect of the story felt disconnected for me, his behavior toward Tobias during the intimate sections made me understand what Tobias could actually see in him.

As bumbling pawns in an extensive espionage scheme, both characters work. They try to take steps to fathom what exactly is going on around them – Tobias in regards to murders he wishes to solve, Geln in regards to why his AI is acting so oddly and what the other spy on Rimania is doing – but both men are buffeted by forces beyond their control. There’s a chaotic quality to the story’s pace that mirrors this, and all the way to the end, you’re left questioning just as much as Geln and Tobias. Even characters that you think you’ve figured out will surprise you. There are no easy answers, just as it’s not easy reading, but this is the story’s primary strength. Machiavellian twists keep you guessing through the very last chapter. Readers who thrive on that kind of thing will likely get the most of Tobias and Geln’s story.


8/10 – Dense plotting slows down what is normally smooth reading

Hero #1

6/10 – An idiot of a spy, his personality doesn’t really become clear until late in the story

Hero #2

6/10 – A little too young and a little too dumb for my tastes

Entertainment value

6/10 – I was more invested in the espionage than the romance

World building

7/10 – There are some interesting dynamics created in the otherworld, but not enough explanation to make it really coherent.




Joely Skye said...

Hey, thank for reading and reviewing this, even if it didn't work so well for you.

I see your reviews are up at Uniquely Pleasurable now too. That's great! They do thoughtful reviews there, like yours.

Book Utopia Mom said...

It was nice seeing something different from you, though. It's very reassuring as a reader to see authors unafraid of taking risks in trying new things. It keeps reading experiences fresh.