Today I'm featuring my review of Jonah Bergan's Off World, plus you get another great excerpt and chance to win a prize! Check out the whole post so you don't miss out on any of the goodies!
The cover of Jonah Bergan's Off World promises a science fiction tale that likens to a far off world... and it did. The promotional blurb gives readers a really good idea of the general framework of the story as well, but it doesn't begin to touch the many themes and elements of the story beyond the sensitive areas. My one quibble is that, to me, this story has nothing to do with the BDSM lifestyle, even if it shared some of the terms coined by those stories.
While there are elements of dominance, that relates directly to the slavery--both actual and a variation of indentured servitude--that is showcased by the space pirate clan from the prologue and the relationship between Taine as the Lowman hunter, Sunshine as the boy he buys as a slave, and Tanner as the apprentice he takes on in a very ala medieval process.
The futuristic elements of the story blended rather seamlessly with the medieval, pastoral, and magical themes. While I can't say that it felt "real", I will say it felt very realistic as a whole world. It reminded me not only of Firefly, but of Dune and Star Wars. This isn't in any way a copy of those stories, but it does invoke a lot of the same themes--living after war, religious fanaticism, gender disassociation, hidden factions, magic and technology and alien powers.... they're all involved in a complicated yet cohesive whole.
The characters were multi-layered with backstories that affected their present behavior in ways that fleshed them into fully-visualized people when it came to the main trio, Taine, Sunshine, and Tanner. I wish the female characters had been given more of the same treatment, especially Harris, who, perhaps ironically, has a male name which confused me until I finally figured out she was a woman.
Still, for all I liked the story by the end, I had the hardest time reading it. There were line edits that were missed as well as my pet peeve, the repeated use of lowercase 'mom' when it was being used as a name. A minor issue, of course, but one that always jumps out at me when reading. The twists and turns, which create good dramatic AHA moments when you read the epilogue, were confusing. A large part of the difficulty with the story in that respect came from the author's choice of omniscient POV. By using a trio of men as the main characters, the constant shifts between their POV within the story without the benefit of scene or chapter breaks made it harder to attribute the various internal thoughts, past events, etc... to the right character without having to stop and re-read pages to whole paragraphs to figure out where it had jumped.
All in all, if you like the themes explored in the story, you'll enjoy Off-World. The afterward indicates a sequel is in the wings, but unless the editing gets a polish and the character point-of-view is done in a less chaotic fashion, I don't think I'll be reading it.
Title: Off World
Author: Jonah Bergan
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
Cover Artist: Michelle Fairbanks
Length: 240 Pages
Release Date: August 22, 2015
Blurb: What really brought Taine to that backwater little world? Taine’s a hunter. He’s a red-skinned, black-eyed Lowman by nature, and a hunter by trade. Some hunters work in flesh, others in secrets, and some few work to set right what’s been set wrong. It’s a big galaxy and there’s always plenty of work for a hunter like Taine, so you got to wonder, what with all that at his feet, what really brought Taine to that backwater little world?
Off-World is a M/M science fiction action/adventure set in F/M dominated space. The story takes place in an arm of the galaxy where slavery (sexual and otherwise) is legal and commonplace. Strictly speaking, it is not a BDSM novel in that consent is not a matter of concern for the characters, but those with an interest in BDSM should enjoy the story. Due to explicit content, Off-World is not recommended to readers under eighteen years of age.
He scowled, and turned back toward Taine.
A gentle tug and the shirt came loose in front. The uncle slipped it over the boy’s shoulders and let it fall the floor.
He sampled the first scents of the boy’s essence. Sweet, Taine thought. Like honey must taste. It was a thick and golden flavor, and it made Taine smile. That’s all he needed to know to buy any boy—that there was something either savory or sweet in them that was still strong enough to reach the surface. The rest would be up to the trainers—the professionals back at the Temple on Taine’s home-world. But the boy’s dancing tongue sparked Taine’s curiosity, and he wanted to know more.
There were other ways to open a human. Most of those were forceful, and some were downright violent. The uncle and aunt might not understand, but for a Lowman, this was an act of kindness. It was the gentlest way to break through to the only thing a Lowman truly valued.
Taine found his way blocked. It was expected, a barrier—an obstacle to turn him back. It had a scent and a flavor—something akin to the bitterness of burned toast, but its aspect was like a sharp blade bearing a dark stain, it stabbed at him, threatening him and warning him to turn back. Taine instinctively flinched away from it, slipping around and behind it, evading it, and driving himself closer to the wellspring. He found and followed the predominant scents—that of seaweed, dark and rich, and the flavor of saltwater, and he found himself standing on hot sand, feeling the sensations of an empty beach, and the heat of a brilliant and golden sun. It was a rich and delicate feeling, and a smell, and a taste—the smell and taste of sunshine. Yes, Taine thought. That is who he is. Sunshine.
These people had no idea what they were doing, but that wasn’t a surprise either, was it?
Jonah Bergan is a freelance writer living in New England. His publishing credits include a ten part serial, multiple short stories, and a collection of anecdotal humor. He has also published MMORPG game reviews and content, hypnosis scripts, online user manuals, and advertising texts. Please visit jonahbergan.com to learn more about him.
Winner’s Prize: A Paperback copy of “Off-World”.
Runner-up’s Prize: An e-copy of “Off-World”.