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REVIEW: Under Glass – Rebecca Cohen

Under Glass - Rebecca Cohen

Genre: Sci-Fi, Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay

Reviewer: Jordan

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About The Book

Novice planet builder Kai Faewiva has chosen to dedicate his life to the planetarium, but despite the prestige, the honor cannot fill the hole where his Sun should be. For members of Kai’s species who are born with an organ called a caerellon, their true love, their Sun or Moon, is identified at birth.

But Kai’s Sun is long dead, killed in an accident when he was a young boy. Or so everyone thought. After recovering from another bout of the mystery illness he has battled on and off for years, Kai returns to work.

His life is thrown into chaos when scans of Goka Prime, one of the planets in the Sol-Alpha2 system, picks up a life-form that shouldn’t be there. Kai’s Sun, Olliehan Gyin, is somehow alive and well, but how he got to be on Goka Prime, no one knows. And now Kai must bring home his Sun.

Ollie had never truly felt he belonged in the city of Harrea, but he’d have never guessed the reason would be because he came from another planet. When a stranger called Kai arrives, he can’t tear his gaze away, inexplicably drawn to the young man. When the truth is revealed, Ollie has to wrestle with his loyalties and the alien concept that he was destined from birth to be with Kai.

To leave Goka Prime, Ollie must give up everything and everyone he knows. But twenty years apart means Kai and Ollie face a fight to secure what should have always been their future.

The Review

Under Glass is the story of two young men living with a sense of displacement through circumstances outside of their control. Their journey towards reunion and beyond sets them on the path of healing, but not without some bumps along the way. 

Kai is a deeply wounded man. His early childhood is spent being bullied by cruel children who don’t understand the tragedy of his experience, only that he is somehow different, a moon without a sun. As he ages, the bullying is transformed into pity, given by a society that quasi worships those born with the caerellon, and clearly struggles to support those who lose that bond. Kai’s identity is built on loss. With Ollie’s return, he has to struggle to create a sense of self that supports his struggling partner, while also making space for his own healing journey. 

Ollie has to deal with feeling always out of place. His mother’s choices left him stranded as an outsider, missing something he didn’t even know existed. His struggle is the revelation of his past, and the shock of adapting to circumstances he could literally never anticipated. As he begins to grapple with the feelings for Kai thrust upon him, he must also navigate the expectations surrounding those feelings that he was never taught. How do you learn to adapt to a biologically fated mate when you’ve had only a few weeks to comprehend the possibility. 

Cohen does a marvelous job building a world that is beautiful in its grandeur, and sweet in the simple mundane acts of the characters we follow. I get a real sense of reverence as we observe Kai and his masters, these builders of worlds in miniature. They feel the weight of their responsibility, and do so with a humble grace. It’s a soft, somber tone that really highlights the grief of someone like Kai, navigating not only his own feelings of loss, but a society that doesn’t know what to do with people in his situation. 

Juxtaposed to the creation of universes, the story is largely one of quiet, everyday life moments. Visits to restaurants, grabbing takeout, exploring new apartments, the everyday activities of building lives together. Kai taking Ollie to his first beach, or Ollie taking Kai camping, those moments provided the contrast to the epicness of the setting that really makes this story work. 

The other part of Cohen’s story world that got to me was how the society on Miridena dealt with the emergence of certain individuals who are biologically linked. There are classes for those born with the caerellon, to help them learn how to navigate the depth and strength of their emotional bonds. There are beliefs and traditions, folks who are opposed to the culture, and those who fetishize the pairs. Each piece Cohen adds fleshes out the depth of the world, making it so you could believe in these people who occasionally have fated mates. 

Rebecca Cohen’s Under Glass was a truly delightful read, the comforting tale of two young men finding not only themselves, but building a sweet relationship that I enjoyed watching unfold.

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