Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Romance of Spaceships: A Review of Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair

Space Penguins!
Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair was a book that I picked up as part of my quest to diversify my romance library. "Scifi romance" only just came to my attention, though why that is and why there aren't more of them out there mystifies me. The last things I read that can be honestly categorized as scifi were the Young Jedi Knights books back when I was a preteen. That's embarrassing to admit, and leads me to to my disclaimer: I am in no way an expert on the science fiction genre. Now on to my review.

This book was an oddly satisfying blend of seemingly dissimilar elements, rather like a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Mmm. Chaz was a career military space captain until she was falsely accused of killing a large number of her crew. She is sent to Moabar, a prison planet, to live out the remainder of her years. The book opens up to her being rescued by Sully, a space pirate of sorts who Chaz tangled with in the past. Sully (Gabriel Ross Sullivan) offers Chaz her freedom if she will agree to help him with a mission which involves shutting down a gen lab breeding jukors (horrible killing monsters).

Right from the start you get the sense that Chaz and Sully have some history. This is conveyed in the way that they banter and tease. It's slightly cheesy, but extremely effective not only in establishing what their relationship is and what it's going to build to, but the unspoken longing that has existed between them. I was really impressed by how Sinclair built three dimensional characters and a three dimensional romantic relationship in very little time. I completely bought into the love story.

Chaz is the narrator as well as the heroine, and she goes through the most in terms of development. Readers are informed that Chaz was a fairly by-the-book officer in her military career. But when it's brought to her attention that the government is doing something very wrong (breeding jukors) she agrees to risk a great deal to help because she genuinely believes it's the right thing to do. In her journey she must also confront a certain prejudice against people or creatures with psychic abilities.

Psychic talents are despised by the empire, and all children (Chaz included) are raised to hate and fear them. I really liked this take on a classic prejudice story line--mainly because I think psychic talents, if they existed, would be pretty frightening. Imagine if your significant other, your boss, your most loathed enemy, whoever, was able to read your thoughts or manipulate your mind. That's frightening to me. And yet, so often when these talents are utilized, in paranormal romance for example, people are very casual about it. In Christine Feehen's Carpathian books, or Marjorie Liu's Dirk and Steele series, everyone has crazy mind talents and they form deep psychic connections to one another, and it's all just part of their world and nothing special. Nobody runs from the guy with telekinesis or the chick who can read minds. So yes, I really liked that Sinclair made psychic abilities an issue and used Chaz's point of view and character arc to address that issue from multiple angles.

The scifi elements were great. Sinclair introduces only the details necessary to the story, without any extraneous flashy world building. You don't need to learn an entire futuristic vocabulary or the names of a hundred alien species. As a result, even a novice sci-fi reader like myself is comfortable with this book.

My criticisms are pretty minor. The narrative gets a touch cheesy and repetitive. I lost count of the number of times readers are reminded that Sully has "obsidian" eyes. I was also a little bummed that the ending was a "happy for now" instead of a "happily ever after".  I can forgive this since I know there's a sequel.

This is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it. 4.5 stars.

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