Release Date: July 29, 2019
Received From: Review copy from the author’s newsletter
Rio’s life isn’t perfect, but at least it’s finally getting somewhere. He has a job, no easy feat in an economy where almost everything is automated, and a partner that he’s building a life with. When masked strangers break into his Bogota-suburb apartment to hurt his mother and take something extremely valuable away from Jody, Rio’s partner. Rio needs to do something to replace what they’ve lost, but when one of his coworkers offers him the chance of a lifetime, Rio has to make a decision: is he willing to take a life for the person he loves most in the world?
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: queer
TAGS: new adult, science fiction, queer characters, existing relationship, Latinx character, POC character, Latinx author, disabled character
WARNINGS: physical injury, ableism, home invasion, vomiting, violence, death
***NOTE: The MC uses he/him and they/them pronouns. While the narration uses he/him, any reference to Rio by an outside force used they/them, so I will use they/them as well.***
I find myself in a strange position with this book, because while I didn’t love it, I also didn’t hate it. I just didn’t really connect with it in any concrete way.
The first issue, that came up within the first few pages of the book, was that there were strange disparities in the writing and editing. First was with the shoes Rio wore in the first chapter–on the first page, they say that they purchased and wore the high platforms because Jody, their partner, liked them and indicated that they should get them, but then, a page or two later, mentions that earlier that day, Jody had told them that the shoes were stupid. Then, the narration mentions that Rio notices blood from another person on their hands when they’re in the elevator, upon returning after work, but suddenly, they have no memory of this and have not seen it before once they’re actually inside their apartment. Also, there’s a scene where they mention their hands are bloody and covered in mud, and then a few sentences later, they’re biting their fist. There are several instances like this throughout the book. And while the blood in the elevator one can be attributed to their trauma and panic over what might’ve happened to their mother and partner, the others just don’t make sense and were enough to throw me out of the scenes.
Additionally, there were very strange and abrupt transitional jumps in the narration, even within the same paragraph sometimes, which made this pretty jarring to read. Also, everything feels really disjointed due to the lack of exposition to build up each scene. The whole novella is pretty much short, choppy sentences and a lot of dialogue. You can see the connection from scene to scene through the general plot, but they almost feel like they’ve just been placed next to each other with little to bind them together.
The lack of worldbuilding was a problem too. As in, there wasn’t any, other than the introduction of different technology. Throughout the story, you don’t really get any kind of sense of where they are. The Andes mountains are mentioned once very briefly, so that tells the reader that they’re in South America, and it’s mentioned that they’re in a city, but otherwise, that’s it as far as location. The technology is fairly easy to understand and follow as it’s similar to a lot of what we see in other science fiction stories, but there’s no explanation of it or where it came from or how it happened to become such an integral part of their society. Also, it’s mentioned that Rio is a “performer” of some kind, but what does that mean in the context of the world Langley is trying to introduce us to with this story? We don’t really know, and not very many questions like this are answered throughout the course of the novella.
The last thing is that I didn’t really feel connected to the characters and/or relationship featured in the story. Even though they’re the main character and narrator, we really don’t know all that much about Rio by the end of the story, let alone the other prominent characters–their mother, and Jody, their partner. There’s little to no emotional connection formed between reader and characters, and honestly…I didn’t really buy that there was much of an emotional connection between Rio and Jody either. Perhaps it’s because I was turned off by the fact that Rio mentions, in a throwaway narrative comment, that they sort of stalked Jody when they first met until finally deciding to back off. But there was very little interaction between the two of them, and what scenes there are basically consist of dialogue and not much else. There’s no emotional build up–other than Rio’s need to provide new crutches for Jody, and Jody’s subsequent frustration that Rio won’t listen to their needs–and thus, there’s not really much emotional fallout for the reader when the ending comes. So, while I didn’t dislike the characters, I also didn’t love them and ended up liking them in a distracted sort of way that doesn’t really amount to anything.
While this story wasn’t bad and is okay as an introduction to a new series and world, it falls flat in a lot of ways and leaves the readers with more questions than they started with–and not the kind with which you generally want them to leave. This story would’ve been much better served as a full novel, or even a longer novella, so that Langley could bulk up the worldbuilding and character development.
Seeing as this is an introductory piece to a new series, I’m still intrigued enough to check out the next in the series, so I will hold definite judgement until I read that, whenever it comes.
Lina Langley is a first-generation immigrant. She currently lives in sunny Florida and spends her time slashing hot strangers while getting coffee.
Her past is haunted by spies, thieves, tyrants, and murderers. A resident of the world, she’s lived on three different continents. She first saw a radiator when she was twenty-two years old, and one time she followed a cat instead of going to a house party.
She likes to read, watch TV, and play video games when she’s not developing them. The rest of her free time is spent recreating her own characters in The Sims and hoping that people don’t look at the back end of her games.