“2042. Post-peak oil America is a much more insular and inward looking country than now, with severely restricted immigration and international defense activities. Like most countries, imports of all kinds are limited because of cost, with a new emphasis on home and locally grown produce. Coffee is now a luxury beyond most people’s means. Oil and petroleum are rationed and restricted to use in essential industries. Solar, wind and tidal electricity generation now dominate the domestic energy market, and rail has become an important means of both commuter and long-haul transportation, using extensive networks built during depression years as employment stimulus projects.
In a reorganization of internal crime and security departments, the FBI and National Security Agency have been merged into a single entity-the Federal Justice Agency-which has wide-ranging powers of investigation across state borders. Within that agency, a small core of highly trained elite agents, Special Crime Investigators, are brought in on the most intransigent, dangerous cases to offer specialist expertise and abilities. ”
Excerpt from Somatesthesia by Ann Somerville, Copyright 2009.)
Thus begins Somatesthesia by Ann Somerville, multi-published author of nearly a dozen science fiction novels within the m/m or slash sub-genre that has become its own dynamic little profit center in the publishing world, especially the eBook publishing world.
Somatesthesia is one of Somerville’s most character-rich and action-filled works of fiction.
Reading Somerville’s dialog is like overhearing lovers at the table behind you talk about their hopes, dreams and desires for their relationship. At first, you accidently hear a few phrases, and then, you listen closer but non-chalantly as the exchange gets interesting, and finally you nearly fall off your chair leaning backwards, pretending to stretch, to hear the sweet nothings while trying to appear as though you’ve heard nothing unusual, or, nothing at all. But it’s not all sweet nothings, and it’s just too good to miss!
The linear tension of the action drives brilliant dialog-infused interactions that make this book a must read for anyone who likes their stories compelling and their characters complex and real. The muscle-taut tension is palpable on every page. The sexual tension alone is worth the price of admission.
Into this futuristic setting two men are drawn together in a law enforcement partnership that will test the professional, and personal, mettle of each man. And they couldn’t be more different…or so it seems. We first meet Devlin Grace, Special Crime Investigator inductee, as he is about to attend his orientation sessions and meet his new partner. Anxious to get started, Devlin does not allow his anticipatory excitement to be dampened down by rumors that his new partner had driven his last partner to a nervous breakdown. But then Devlin meets him.
Connor Hutchens is Devlin’s new partner, and their first few minutes together are not smooth. Connor, whose medically enhanced sensory faculties of sight, smell and hearing, together with his legendary work-addict personality, have gained him the common moniker of cyborg and the more personal invective of super freak, reveals in one verbal exchange how difficult this alliance will be.
The attraction between the two men is an initially unacknowledged rare point of silent agreement between them. Although their relationship proceeds along adversarial lines, their respect for one another’s professional crime fighting expertise, which includes enhanced as well as intuitive tools, brings the two men to a point in their personal interaction and in the child abduction they are sent to Chicago to solve where they must work out where mutual admiration begins and sexual fireworks begin.
For Devlin, who was transferred into the Special Crimes unit from a successful stint in Child Abductions, this is his opportunity to match Connor’s enhanced augments with a combination of his own innate instincts, intelligence and humor. Devlin’s adeptness at utilizing the SCI’s special heads-up display glasses, a futuristic crime-fighting tool that can locate one’s partner, wherever he may be, is temptation incarnate. The options for personal inquisitiveness prove alluring to Devlin, and to the reader.
One of the memorably telling incidents in the book is when, early in their partnership, the two men are forced to room together in Chicago, and Devlin discovers Connor is afraid of the dark. Blind without his visual enhancement augmentations, Connor, trying very hard to resist the easy and personable charm of the less uptight Devlin, is ashamed to have another man discover his fears.
Although the adversarial and sexual nature of the tension between them escalates after this revelation, Somerville does a masterful job of pulling together the seemingly disparate emotions of Connor’s humiliation and fear with Devlin’s innate compassion, warmth and reassurance. The incident reveals a theme that threads its way through the book wherein we see (and learn) how we are often only as sick as our secrets. What Devlin and Connor end up with is a confrontation with their authentic selves. What they do about that and how they approach their work is what makes this a great read.
Somerville took the reins of publishing her eBook herself this time, through the Lulu self-publishing model, adding this book to the others in her personally-penned library published by Samhain, PD Publishing and others. (See the complete list of Ann Somerville novels in the list below.)
If she’s so inclined, Ann Somerville’s prodigious, high-quality literary output over a relatively short period of time makes this Australian author a serious contender for a mainstream genre crossover bid and as a writer to watch in 2009 and beyond.