Monday, June 28, 2010

Impedimenta by Ann Somerville

TITLE: Impedimenta
AUTHOR: Ann Somerville
PUBLISHER: Smashwords
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 47k)
GENRE: Gay futuristic sci-fi
COST: $3.99

Two years after their narrow escape from the Karhal, Jati, Seb, and North are reunited again, this time on a transport mission that will leave them confined with each other and their crew of sixteen for months. Seb is convinced North needs a younger man, and thus keeps pushing him – none too discreetly – into their paths, while Jati isn’t in a relationship at all. A ship malfunction forces them to make an emergency landing, but the planet that welcomes them in seems too perfect to be true…

Sequels are such funny beasts. On one hand, they’re fantastic to get to follow up with characters you already know and love. I have a real weak spot for series once I get hooked. On the other, what you loved in the first (or previous) stories might not even be present in the latest installment, so there’s always the possibility of disappointment. Not to mention the lapse of time that might fall between stories. I rarely have the patience to go back and re-read previous books just to gear up for reading a sequel.

Impedimenta showed the potential into falling into the latter trap, though I was glad to see that it eventually played into what I thought was the first story’s greatest strength. Seb, North, and Jati are reunited for the first time since their scant survival of the Karhal attacks, on a quiet transport mission that should be more elemental than terrifying. Seb and North have hit a rough patch in their relationship, as Seb has finally decided that he’s holding North back from true happiness – by being older when North deserves a partner his own age, by holding North back on a promotion track on his career just so they can be together. North is frustrated by Seb’s lack of faith in what they have, and the fact that Seb keeps throwing him in the path of other eligible singles – including this particular mission – is driving him insane. Jati, on the other hand, isn’t in a relationship, and finds herself becoming friends with one of the new crewmates, a widower named Jorge. When their ship malfunctions, they are forced to make an emergency landing on a planet called Kefarno. There, they are kept together in their individual holiday groups, secluded from anybody else on the planet, constantly monitored even though it is driving them crazy.

I’ll say it flat out. Seb annoyed the crap out of me. North had to tell him how many times he wasn’t interested in anybody else? Yet, Seb presumed to know what was best for North, even knowing North didn’t like it. It’s funny, because in the first book, North was probably my least favorite of the three, and yet, here, Seb easily holds that position. Yes, North is still a tad on the earnest and immature side, but he’s come a long way, and honestly, in this instance, it’s better than being so frustratingly presumptive. It’s a very good thing their scenes are balanced out with Jati’s budding relationship with Jorge, because my opinion of the story would have taken a severe downward turn if I’d had to deal with their pigheadedness the entire book.

As it stands, I only have to really deal with it for half. Once the situation on Kefarno escalates, the focus becomes less on North and Seb’s tumultuous relationship and more on the circumstances surrounding them and their crewmates. The action reverts to the same tight, tense design that typified the first book, albeit in (what feel like) longer scenes. It also provides the means for Seb and North to finally learn the lessons they need to, a vastly important step in the progress of their relationship, so ultimately, I’m more forgiving of my earlier annoyance than I might otherwise have been.

A lot of that is credit to Jati. I love her. I loved her in the first book, and I loved her even more in this one. She’s no-nonsense, smart, resourceful, and exactly the kind of person I want in my corner. The fact that she gets to discover Jorge – who I also loved, more than North and Seb, even – was an absolute treat.

I’m reluctant to label this a romance, since it’s more of an ensemble action story with abundant relationship issues to explore. This is as much about North learning to be a part of a crew as it is about Jati getting a grasp on her future. I’m also hesitant to label it a gay story, too. Heterosexual relationships are just as important in this, and some readers who aren’t interested in those dynamics might be turned off by it. I hate having to put that warning in. I would love for readers to pick up a story and judge it on its individual merits, rather than say they won’t read something because it has het interactions (or vice versa for those readers who refuse to read gay interactions). Because stories like this deserve to be read by as many as possible, for the people involved, not for their genders. Because in the end, even with my early issues with Seb, this was worth both my time and my investment. The author’s skill lies as much with making these people come to life as it does making the action pop. I would never have been so wrapped up in Seb's attitude if I didn't completely accept him as a fully rounded character. If you read the first – and I think even if you didn’t – you’ll want to read this one.


9/10 – Tightly written, especially once the action kicks in


8/10 – The secondary characters aren’t as fully fleshed as the primaries, but that’s a minor quibble


8/10 – Seb’s personal quest annoyed me, but it all picked up once they had to land

Entertainment value

8/10 – My annoyance with Seb aside, the levels of growth in all the relationships combined with the action makes this a worthy, enjoyable read

World building

8/10 – I’m left with a lot of questions about Kefarno, but otherwise, spectacular and believable



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