This is a very hard one to rate. The writing is solid, the world building and characterization decently done, and it is a quick and easy read. But the book has a very strong dichotomy: it is a moody sci fi merged with gay BDSM porn. Author Rey makes it work but just be aware that both aspects are fully described in detail. In a way, since it feels so niche, it does feel a bit like a Marty Stu. But a decently written one where the sci fi aspects are just as important as the sex.
Story: Ales is a courier, crossing the galaxy delivering goods that are more or less legal. Lonely and haunted by being the sole survivor of the destruction of his home planet years ago, he spends most of his days and nights in transit or hooking up with faceless men while dulling the emotional pain with hard drugs. When employed to take a shipment to a blockaded world, he knows he is flirting with serious danger this time: the contraband hidden in his cargo hold would, if found, seal his fate immediately. But then a one-night-stand on the planet turns into something far different: for he has finally found someone to master him completely and satisfy all that he has needed for so long. But his master wants much more from him than he may be ready to give.
First and foremost, this is not a romance. This is a story about an emotionally crippled person looking for the person who can give him what he needs. There are a lot of scenes of random hookups, threesomes, and BDSM. The book does not, however, feel like someone was trying to fit a story around the sex; rather, the sex is integrated into the story seamlessly so it makes a lot of sense. Nor do we have the usual hackneyed heroes or overidealized love interests. This is a cold hard exchange with no build up or sweetness. Ales as a hero uses sex as one does drugs and so the pain of a BDSM relationship is an escape or repentance – perhaps survivor guilt?
The book is an extremely fast read – really a novella rather than a full story. Finished in about an hour, it moves quickly but quite seamlessly as well. Even when we are given the main character’s melancholia, the story doesn’t drag. Yes, this could have been fleshed out more but for what it is, it is strangely satisfying. Admittedly, the hard core sexual descriptions weren’t as interesting to me so I did skip a lot of them, making for an even faster read.
Because it is so short and does feel a bit like a Marty Stu, I think 3 stars is a fair rating. That does not reflect the writing, which is more of a 4 star. And for gay porn, BDSM style, I don’t have a lot of experience but it felt authentic and organic. At no time did I feel the sci fi was an attempt to put window dressing on porn – both the sci fi and the porn aspects (really more than erotic – this is porn) were solid. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.