Monday, July 18, 2011

Soul Bond by Christine Price

TITLE: Soul Bond
AUTHOR: Christine Price
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 30k)
GENRE: Gay sci-fi erotic romance
COST: $3.50

Captain Julian Gaspar had a bounty out on a certain man for many years before he was brought to him. But when he finally gets his ex-lover Ellis in his bed again, Ellis is already dying, attached to a corpse-feeler that is slowly stealing his soul…

It always amazes me how some novellas can fly by in the blink of an eye and others are a chore to slog through. I knew when I started this story it wasn’t that long, but I triple-checked the word count when I was done because I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to make my way through it.

It starts out with an opportunist on an alien planet finding a man in an alley he recognizes from a bounty poster. Hoping there might still be a reward, he hauls this obviously dying man to the ship in question, where he is paid an exorbitant amount of money to keep his mouth shut about what he found. We discover that the ship’s captain, Julian, had put a bounty out on the dying man years before. The dying man is Ellis, and he was Julian’s lover until he sacrificed himself to save Julian. The story jumps to flashback, to tell how Julian and Ellis met and what led to their eventual parting. Then it’s back to the present, and Julian’s quest to try and find a way to keep Ellis alive. Ellis is wearing a ring that is slowly stealing his soul. According to the ship’s medic, he has less than a week to live.

A lot of potential for drama, right? I thought so, too. The concept of the soul ring was an interesting one, with a parasitic race that uses the ring as a means to prolong their own longevity. But it’s never really given a chance to soar, mostly due to the dull characters and even duller prose. The story is far more tell than show, and the initial interactions with Ellis and Julian are uninspiring. Ellis is a stowaway on a ship Julian captures during the war. He bargains sex for not getting throw out an airlock. Everything about him screams shallow and opportunistic. Yet, Julian is fascinated by him from the start. They fall into bed quickly, and for several chapters afterward, it’s sex (not nearly hot or long enough to counter the weak characterizations) with a minor problem either solved or brought up. It’s predictable and boring very quickly. But then, it turns on a dime. Julian, in an act that seems ridiculously dumb for someone who’s supposedly such a brilliant man, almost kills himself and sets his ship on fire, at which point Ellis jumps in and saves him at the expense of his own safety. I’m expected to believe at this point that there might be more between these men, but everything I’ve been shown up to this point is not-very-inspiring sex. I never see what Ellis’s appeal is other than the fact that he’s pretty and supposedly good in bed.

Without being able to care or invest in either of the two leads, I was left hoping to get involved in the drama. I didn’t. A character gets introduced after the flashbacks, who, while interesting, provides a whole deus ex machina feel to the entire latter half of the story. That doesn’t end up being the case, but by the time I found that out, the damage had already been done. Add in the rather dreary and terse prose, and the drama that should have crackled throughout the climax fell flat on its face. I never felt the intensity that should have come from such a life or death choice, and then it was over almost before it began.

Stories need more than an interesting gimmick to keep me invested. They need people I can feel for, and drama I care about. I would have settled for even one of those here, and I just didn’t get it.


6/10 – Lots of telling and not enough depth made this more of a chore than it had to be

Hero #1

4/10 – Shallow and uninteresting

Hero #2

4/10 – Seemed more of an opportunist than what I was told he should be

Entertainment value

3/10 – With no character depth and trite ideas, this felt like a longer book than it was

World building

6/10 – Some attempts are made at bringing the setting to life, but some lack common sense while others are incomplete



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