Genre: LGBTQ Science Fiction
Series: Defending Epsilon #1
EVERY DAY Lieutenant Commander Kyle West fights the good fight against Earth’s greatest enemy, the Menarians. For centuries they’ve been on the defensive–Earth never getting the advantage–even when they send their best fighters to Epsilon, a remote base where they offensively attack the Menarians on their own world, Menar. For years the brass have been trying to get Kyle to join the elite, and take his skills to Menar, but Kyle has a few very good reasons for staying Earth-bound. Until he doesn’t, and loses everything he cares about.
Kyle goes to Epsilon, on a suicide mission to give it to the Menars on their own turf, but stepping on the base changes everything… for him and the world.
This was a great science fiction novel, full of epic space battles with page-gripping tension. My favorite parts of this book were around exploring Witt’s use of characters with varying sexualities. There wasn’t any explicit sex in the novel, but having those characters represented, in one way or another, meant the world to me.
Witt introduces a society close to our own future, and though homosexual relationships are probably okay in the common populace, our Earth Fleet fighters are held to a different standard, and have a unique social system, that does–and doesn’t–support homosexuality. It’s a bit of an extreme take on don’t ask, don’t tell. Unfortunately, because of Witt’s liberal use of the rainbow, there was grumbling in the review comments about the male/female pairings in the novel.
Witt makes it very clear what sort of stories each of her pen names write (details at the end of the review), and I was a bit disappointed in people complaining about these hetero pairings in her book. For one, nothing was explicit, so I wasn’t sure exactly what people were complaining about. Two, this is Science Fiction, and not M/M, so people should have been aware that wasn’t a “one-handed read”, and it isn’t a Romance, so there are no requirements to make it HEA (though I thought it ended happily enough). For three, as far as I’m concerned, heterosexuality is also part of the rainbow, so if you’re going to create a world similar to our own, where all sexualities are possible, then you have to include straight people too. Otherwise you’re being sort of hypocritical.
Yes, Kyle’s relationships are complicated, and I’m not sure if they even characterize him very well as an individual, but they do a great job fleshing out the society in which he lives, or rather, the society in which he finds himself stuck in. It’s clear he’s fiercely loyal, and does his best with the hand he’s been dealt.
As far as the plot goes, there were several twists in the novel I immediately picked up on, but the last twist really got me. Of all the possibilities running through my head, I didn’t catch onto that one. Wow.
All in all, this was a great science fiction read, set in a military setting and a not too distant future. I think it does great things for LGBTQ fiction, because it includes characters that aren’t clearly heterosexual or homosexual. While I know those types of characters aren’t popular in fiction (or real life for that matter), I felt this was an important work to add to the movement of accepting these kinds of people in fiction (and society).
Witt/Gallagher writes quite a few different genres, but she separates them with different pen names. To help explain her pen names, I’ve quoted her website:
L.A. Witt writes almost exclusively gay male romance (including everything from contemporary to science fiction), plus some trans/genderqueer. Lauren Gallagher writes heterosexual, lesbian, and bisexual romances. Lori A. Witt sticks to sci fi/fantasy (which may contain some LGBT and/or romantic elements, but are predominantly SFF). Ann Gallagher writes sweet romances and young adult. And finally, Diana Fyre writes horror.
B. A. Brock is a reviewer for DSP and QSF. He enjoys reading, writing, running, family and food, and fills his life with bent bunk. He especially loves to discuss LGBTQ+ literature. His website is http://www.babrockbooks.com. You can find him on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/BABrockBooks.