Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Short Story Review: Aurora Awakening by Thalia Fand

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Aurora Awakening is an erotic romance science fiction story. It is the second short story published by Thalia Fand and it is amazingly good, original, sexy, fun, and has an actual story along with the romance.

Excuse me while I take a moment to persuade you to rush right over to Amazon and buy it.

Because, damn, I love this writer. She publishes her short stories (well, all two of them so far) for free on a blog, and once they're finished, releases them on the Kindle as well. After her first one, I read half her second then waited for it to be published properly so that I could read it all at once, and have the added incentive to actual pay for it. Not that I really needed that.

But I am going to heartily endorse you rushing straight out and buying the Kindle version of this story. Because
1) it is a fantastic, awesome story you need to own for yourself,
2) you need to encourage the author to write more stories so I can read them,
3) it is perfectly priced (I'd pay more, actually, but I'd feel less happy about recommending them, as length is also a factor in price (no matter how well you're entertained, if it only occupies you for ten minutes... ). BUT ANYWAY, it's the perfect price for the length of the story and an amazing price for the quality).


 ...Why are you still here?

What's that? You actually want reasons for my excessive fangirling? Picky, aren't you? Very well, I shall meet your unreasonable challenge. I shall give you some. Ha! You didn't expect that, did you?

The characters

We have our two main partners in the dance of love, and some miscellaneous background characters.

Bailey Yu, or 'Chief', is the lead fixer (engineer) on a horticultural survey/sampling ship. She's very methodical, has planned out her career and all her moves, is taking all the options to increase her bonuses and is all set to retire and find the love of her life when she hits forty (she's about thirty now). Tanned, buff, and not particularly attractive, she hooks up with women at every station for sexy times, but doesn't have any long term lovers, and isn't looking. As our narrator, everything is filtered through her perspective, and in her voice.

Fa is a rich girl who decided to actually work for a living, getting her degree and signing on for a fixer's job at twenty five. With a short blond pixie cut, real blue eyes, and glowingly white skin, she's utterly gorgeous - and that's not just Yu's biased hormones speaking. Cheery, smart, and respectful but not in the least deferential, she's new to the job, willing to learn, and mad for her new chief.

The background characters are minor enough not to be worth listing, but they are each memorable enough to tell apart when necessary, believable, and fulfill a valid function in the story. They also pop up often enough to widen the focus of the story and draw the reader into believing that they really are on a space ship and our main characters do have to consider and interact with other people (something that can get lost in a too obsessive a focus on our lovers).

Writing style and editing nitpicks.

I'm discussing this early on, because the first thing you'll notice is the slang and space-faring, futuristic lingo that the whole story is written in (it's in first person, and both speaking and narration use slang heavily and consistently). The pacing of the story itself was well done, with plenty of real story, getting to know our characters and setting, sexual tension and finally, enough story left over for a satisfying climax (in both senses of the word).

The Kindle formatting was a little irritating, with huge spaces between paragraphs, meaning that I had to choose between eye strain or not be able to fit much text onto a page. Other than that, it's a well written book. There were a bare handful of minor errors and one messed up sentence in the sex scene; enough to mention, nowhere near enough to worry about.

Now, the slang is both a huge plus and a possible huge minus. Once you 'get' the slang, it gives you a nearly unmatchable feel for the character and drags you right into suspension of disbelief. If you don't get it, you'll be confused, alienated and frustrated. While it is very intuitive and sidesteps us having to wade through a lot of technical hard scifi lingo, the constant, high flow of incoming slang can get overwhelming and your ability to readily interpret every new word will vary. 

I highly, highly, highly recommend skim reading the first few chapters to get a feel for it, and then reading the story over. My first dip Aurora Awakening did suffer a little from the constant slang, but when I went back later and read the full version on my Kindle it was absolutely fine. it does flow beautifully, bouncing along with character, and some of the alternate words work better than the ones they replace.

I've borrowed a couple of random passages so that you can taste the flavour of the writing style for yourself.
"Sure, I got a little restless between stationdocks sometimes. A long run with no one to play with can get a little bleak, but, hellscratch, that’s what hands and toys are made for. And, like I said, once you do get back to a station, there are always plenty of girls ready to shake off the hoarfrost. Sometimes even the oppsex girls are ready for a scrumble."
"She loved me, sure as thumping, but that’ll happen with your first fix chief – happens to almost everyone, in fact. The practical part of fixing is so much all at once and you’re out there in the deep and you realize that your hams really on the line, not to mention the hams of everyone else on the crew. Of course you cling to your fix chief like a stationdock when you’re out there, and you learn to love them like anyone who teaches, punishes, and protects you."

The Story

 It being a short story, though long enough to take the time to read and properly get into, I'm going to skim-summarise the plot a bit.

Basically, Fa and Yu end up in the same cabin, which is against regs, considering they also spend all their work time together and Yu is Fa's superior. Nobody really cares, though, and you get the feeling that Yu wouldn't either, if Fa hadn't been obviously attracted to her - and if Yu hadn't been unbearably attracted back. And this is only a problem because Yu is convinced that Fa is just imprinting on her, as the wise guide, mentor, superior, and person she sees constantly, and that sooner or later, Fa will realise that actually, Yu's a boring, unattractive, sweaty, old, grimy, etcetera, etcetera person. So the best thing Yu can do is to teach her to do her job, and to pretend to be made of stone when Fa walks around in a towel, presses up to her in close quarters in crawlspaces and masturbates over Yu's head every night.

Yu gets increasingly desperate, trying to push Fa away, until Fa realises that the attraction is mutual and starts a deliberate campaign of seduction. Yu finally figures out that yes, Fa really does want her, and promptly turns the tables, planning her own seduction.

It gets increasingly quietly hilarious as the two women taunt each other while pretending to be completely oblivious, gradually becoming more and more overt, but never wanting to be the first to break (or to have misread the situation and end up in major trouble - if it hadn't been mutual, it would have crossed the lines into sexual harassment).

This continues amongst the work of a Real Spaceship, as Yu teaches Fa, fixes stuff for the horticultural array, visits a nearby planet and generally keeps the ship running as the main engineer and odd jobs person. In fact, that is much of the story for a while, with the underlying sexual tension gradually taking over and becoming the main storyline.

The climax of the story (pun entirely intended) is glorious, with Yu  springing a surprise on Fa, pulling in a pile of favours, and introducing her to sex in null gravity during lift off.

The Sex

So, null-grav sex during lift off. Do I need to say much else? It's lovely, it's sexy and it is entirely consistent with our characters, and it comes at the point where you can't bear them not jumping each other's bones anymore. And we get a whole scene of it, a full 'chapter's' worth, finishing off the story in style.

We also get a lot of masturbation from Fa, overhead, that poor Yu has to listen to and pretend to be asleep for. They're actually pretty tasteful and fun to read, mostly describing the sounds of her hand moving around under the covers... leaving Yu in no doubt as to what's happening.

I want Thalia Fand to keep writing

 I want Thalia Fand to keep writing because not only was this story fantastic, and the previous one, The Art of Mapmaking [review] also fantastic, but they were fantastic in different ways. Both had completely different protagonists, subject matter, writing style, themes. One was an intellectual seduction, the other is a scifi, 'on the job', resistance of the inevitable. She's made erotic romance short stories interesting. They're worth reading for something other than the sex (the sex is worth reading too, by the way).

And I want her to keep writing because she's proving that there are good and well edited self published lesbian romances out there.

So go support her on Amazon. You can buy Aurora Awakening for the Kindle here and check it out on the blog here.

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