Sex in space. Anonymous, impersonal sex in space.
This was labelled as a lesbian science fiction romance book, so I went in expecting some romance. Silly me, as it turned out.
Aliens made them do it
There is a notoriously lazy trope, used particularly in fanfic and pulp fiction, usually referred to as Aliens Made Them Do it, (Warning: links to TV Tropes.) In short, aliens capture two or more characters and force them to have sex for the sake of research into humans. Often there’s sex pollen or some other aphrodisiac involved.
Okay, so now you don’t have to read Star Angel. Oh, wait. The protagonist kills a lot of aliens, too. Then they have sex again.
Done well, this trope isn’t ever my favourite, but it isn’t always a disaster. If handled well, with characters with a lot of angst and hidden feelings and exisistent tensions and scruples, it’s potentially interesting.
Or you could not bother, shove the protagonist in a room with a cute blonde, and just have them bang. A cute blonde who doesn’t even need a name, because it’s her tits that matter. Did I say tits? Well, so did the author. About five times in a single paragraph. They’re great tits, too. “Not too big and not too small”, says this master of description. Ooh, hot.
I say “master”, because there’s something really male gaze-y about this entire book, despite the female author name. I could be wrong.
I don’t think I am.
At the beginning, I really thought this was potentially interesting. I knew it was short, about 50 pages, but I thought maybe it was an intro into a new world and would be followed by longer novels. I was interested in what I thought were signs that that the human civilization was fascist and that the alien guerrillas might have a point.
How stupid I was. The aliens are bad, very bad, black and white bad, and about all that happens apart from the sex is a power fantasy of the protago effortlessly killing them all with her superior weapons. The aliens all deserve to die, isn’t that easy? So it’s okay if the protagonist commits giant war crimes against them. Something is fascist here, but I don’t think we’re supposed to question it, just cheer the carnage.
Lesbian romance vs lesbian erotic romance vs lesbian erotica vs…
I have certain genre expectations. For romance, I want feelings, loving feelings, HAE or HFN. Sex optional. For romantic erotica (romantica?) I still want some romance.
Either way, I would like to know the love interest’s name. Picky of me, I know. But it’s not enough to call an angel because she’s good looking to justify the term “romance”. There has to be some connection, some feeling, some…
Romance. Yeah. That’s it.
And as far as SF goes, there are way too many worldbuilding inconsistencies for such a short book.
I didn’t actually realise this until I was preparing this review, though, but the cover is odd and genre confusing, too. Most of the cover is photographic (and rather pretty) but the corner, which I thought was a pattern from the Amazon thumbnail, is actually an anime style, shoujo-ai picture of two pretty girls. So it looks like the author is trying to have a bet both ways and signal that this would appeal to fans of yuri (f/f anime and manga, or just f/f fanfic of the same) as well as milSF. There’s nothing particularly yuri about the feel of the story, though.
Maybe it’s just not for me.
There’s the argument that it’s not really wrong as a book, just not for me. I’m not a big reader of erotica in general–I’m there for the squishy feelings. Certainly in terms of turn-ons, saying the word “tits” a lot might work for some readers, but really not for me. It feels childish and crude and offputting. But there’s an audience out there for it, I guess. Maybe if this stuff “worked” for me, I’d be less harsh.
I am a big reader of scifi, though, and video game fantasies of slaughtering aliens don’t meet my itch there. Again, I guess it’s a different genre. I just don’t think Star Angel is actually any good as f/f erotica, let alone SF romance.
Mia Archer has a whole list of “lesbian romances” hitting various micro niches on Amazon. If they are making money from an underexploited niche, then that’s something I can respect. And I’m actually tempted to read some of the ones labelled “sweet romance” to see if, when the sex is out of the way and she isn’t struggling with world building, she has something to write about. Named characters would be nice.
Publication and availability
Star Angel: a Lesbian Science Fiction Romance is self published and available on Amazon. It’s on Kindle Unlimited, so if you’re looking for free f/f erotica, there it is. At $3.99 for the ebook, though, it’s definitely overpriced.
Recommend or not