Friday, January 9, 2009

Reaching Higher by Ann Somerville

TITLE: Reaching Higher
AUTHOR: Ann Somerville
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 41k)
GENRE: Gay sci-fi romance
COST: $4.50

Stranded after their illegal mission went awry, Kine Raelne and his shipmates have been sentenced to death, punishment for attempting to kidnap and murdering some of the wild Angels that inhabit the planet Quarn. He is given the chance for amnesty, in exchange for his scientific expertise. Together with telepath Suaj, Raelne takes on the job of reconstructing Quarn’s lost technology. Though both men are outcasts, Suaj makes it very clear to Raelne that they are only working together because he has been ordered to. Fraternization is out of the question. Even if their similarities far outweigh their differences…

Reaching Higher continues the story started in On Wings, Rising. Raelne is part of the human contingent responsible for the kidnapping of the Angel babies, and we are given the opportunity to see the events from a different perspective. It fleshes out characters that were merely utilized as villainous tools in the first story, and adds a whole new layer of complexity to the world Somerville created. These new details – in fact, the world-building all around – are by far this story’s greatest strength, better even than the clean and nearly flawless prose. There is never any doubt of Quarn’s existence, of the Angels or space travel or the minutiae of these characters’ lives.

This same level of attention is paid to the various characters that populate this short novel. There isn’t a false note anywhere to be found. Both Suaj and Raelne are men in love with science and the quest for knowledge, with a particular fondness for flight in any form. Their discord at the start is honest to their situation, and the relationship the two start to build seems genuine. I have little problem getting swept along with the events of the story as they fight to rebuild not only Quarn’s technological past, but also Raelne’s life.

If there is fault to be found, it’s my inability to connection emotionally with either of the two male leads. The story is told exclusively from Raelne’s POV, which gives me ample opportunity to learn about his feelings of abandonment and loss but little else. He expresses only mild curiosity about Suaj in any sort of romantic light for a good portion of the story. When their relationship eventually shifts, it makes logical sense – because of the facts I know about them – but not emotional. It’s almost like experiencing the story through glass. I can see it all. I can appreciate the vividness. I just can’t feel it.


9/10 – Swift, clean, and well-paced. It’s only imperfect in the lack of emotional engagement.


7/10 – Well-rounded and believable, though hard to connect with on an emotional level


7/10 – Complex and intriguing, but again, I never connected emotionally

Entertainment value

7/10 – While I appreciate this story on a sci-fi level, my failure to connect emotionally to either character keeps the romance from working for me.

World building

10/10 – Rich and detailed, by far the strongest aspect of the book



1 comment:

Ann Somerville said...

Always a pleasure to read one of your beautifully crafted reviews, Book. And telling a speculative author their world-building rates 10/10 is like telling a mother their kid is the cleverest in the class, so thank you!