Pros: Final story blew me away
Cons: First story almost made me give up on the book
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review ebook provided free by publisher for this review.
Expected publication date: 5/13/2015.
Anthologies are tricky, because having a range of stories pretty much guarantees that there’ll be at least one story that doesn’t appeal to any given reader. In the case of Keep the Stars Running (edited by Samantha M. Derr), I didn’t find much to love until the final story. There are a couple of concepts running through here. The hero of each story is an ordinary person: a chef, a gardener, a janitor. Also, each story features an M/M same-sex romance.
The Prince and the Programmer by Cassandra Pierce: A maintenance person with a knack for programming delicious foods instead of the bland fare that’s usually produced falls in love with a prince. The prince, however, loves another prince–one who isn’t a very nice guy. It’s a fairly campy story. Much of it felt juvenile, and it’s a total wish fulfillment fantasy with a Mary Sue protagonist. The dialogue feels rough and stilted, with such gems as “That may or may not be my real name.” (Well, yeah. Those are pretty much the only options, aren’t they?) It picked up a bit in the final scenes, thankfully, but for a while it was annoying enough to make me want to set the book aside. It being an anthology, however, kept me from giving up on it.
About a Bot by Andrea Speed: Tahir is a glorified janitor, which in the future means he runs and services all of the little robots required to keep things clean. In his spare time he like to refurbish old, out-of-date bots as pets. There’s a reporter that Tahir has a crush on, and there’s a dangerous alien enemy that pops in to complicate the story. I enjoyed the characters and their relationships, and events are sufficiently tense and interesting. Tahir is a great character.
The Aurora Conspiracy by Lexi Ander: There are constables, smuggled explosives, relationship misunderstandings, and conspiracies. The relationship between Regin (the main character) and Makari (one of the constables) is lovely–they have a past together, and each believed the other abandoned him (the author thankfully does not artificially extend the misunderstandings in order to boost conflict). The conspiracy and action felt a bit rough, and the pacing stumbles a couple of times toward the end. It felt like the author wasn’t entirely comfortable writing action material.
Flight Risk by Talya Andor: It took me forever to figure out what a ‘Gear’ looked like, particularly given how central the things are to the story. (I think it’s some sort of flying bike-like thing with weapons? Maybe?) The relationship, however, was sweet, and the tension felt real. It didn’t pull me in right away, but I ended up liking it quite a bit. Marco flies a Gear, while Kiel is a mechanic. The two groups traditionally don’t mix, but Marco doesn’t care–in fact, he seems to be spending a lot of time around Kiel. Unfortunately, the two of them stumble across a nefarious plot that could get them–and quite a few other people–killed.
Survival by Leona Carver: Valentin is a glorified gardener stashed in cryo sleep on a colony ship. He’s one of the people responsible for creating and maintaining a forest of plants they’ll use to help terraform the planet they’re going to. He and a colleague–along with a few others–have been woken up by the computer to handle a problem: the forest has grown far more than it should have, and it’s making unlikely inroads into the rest of the ship, damaging and destroying systems as it goes. I’m struggling a little here: this story blew me away, and I don’t want to include too many details. I’ll just say this one has a dark, frightening air to it. The characters pulled me in, and the tension kept me hooked. There’s some insanity afoot, and the author makes excellent use of detail. This story alone is worth reading the book.
There’s explicit sex in here–some stories are heavier on the romance while others are heavier on the erotica. I felt most of it was done very well. The first story makes me want to give this book a three, but that last story alone made me bump it to a 4. Unlikely heroes paired with erotic romance results in some very nicely-done stories.