Crimson by Ethan X. Thomas
Submission isn’t an option—it’s a full-time job.
A Men in Space story.
Humiliated by the betrayal of his former Master, Lieutenant Benjamin Kraft will do anything to bring the drug czar Tazu to justice—anything but kneel again. Forget passion too. He’d rather risk daily grow-op raids. Then, just when Tazu is finally within reach, an ambush wipes out Ben’s entire squad and threatens the life of his partner—a partner he never realized he cared about, much less loved.
As a member of a former slave race known as starlings, Adam’s speed and strength make him a valuable asset to the police force even as his blue skin inspires prejudice and derision from the other officers. Ben’s always been able to look past that, so what’s changed? Suddenly his partner is rude at every turn. Ben may try to get rid of him, but too bad; Adam won’t be scared off. He has his own reasons for wanting to bring Tazu in, and he’ll do it even if it means putting Ben in his place.
Even if it means acting as Ben’s Master on their next mission: an investigation on a planet where sex is everywhere, and where whips and chains are the norm…
[I like this cover of the trio the best because of the tattoo guy. I’d rather see a naked back than a naked chest and this has an appropriate design. ]
This is the third story in the Men in Space trilogy. The plot is the best of the three with a lot of new and refreshing details to the world building. Unfortunately while this is the most interesting of the group, it also has some significant problems. The world building is incomplete and sparse, while the characterization is patchy. The concepts and action based plot keep the story moving and interesting though so this story is worth reading, despite the problems.
The plot revolves around two cops – Ben and Adam – as they hunt down a known bad guy. Each man has personal reasons for wanting the bad guy caught. Ben and Adam must pose as a married (kinky) couple to get some information on a distant planet. This of course poses some problems when their individual pasts rear up to cause some emotional problems.
The storyline is basic but well written with a lot of interesting twists and turns. Unfortunately, the novella is definitely hampered by its length where numerous scenes could have benefited from more detail and background. The reader is dropped immediately into the action with Ben and Adam on a mission that has gone horribly wrong. After some confusing action scenes – they stop to rest in a cave that suddenly turns out to be the hidden lair they were after? or not? – both men are now re-assigned to a far away planet to gather information. Here the lack of background and world building is shown as the details are omitted. The world has different species and rules, none of which are elucidated. Adam is some kind of species of bird with a plumage that has been used as slave labor but again, the story offers no real understanding of the dynamics of the world and its different inhabitants.
Neither Ben nor Adam are fully characterized nor actually described physically. There are brief comments about Adam having a plumage and Ben being a redhead but neither is given enough detail so I could get a mental image. Ben is supposedly gay but Adam is less defined. Perhaps they had feelings for each other prior to the start of the book, but their connection is very loose and ill described. They don’t act like best friends, close confidants, or even anyone with a secret crush. They act like partners that know almost nothing about each other but grudgingly work together. Thus their actual romantic connection didn’t make much sense. Why would they suddenly fall for each other?
Also, almost immediately Ben’s behavior is described as odd and different. Since this is the only way the reader ever sees Ben, how are we to know this is different? There is no additional context or substance to show how Ben usually acts and thus even when trying to highlight the tension between the men, these scenes were more confusing than effective. More time spent on the characterization of the men, their past, their connection, and their history would have definitely helped. Especially with the final BDSM scenes and resolution that didn’t make much sense.
What I did like about the story were the visual descriptions and the hints of a complex and fascinating world. The story doesn’t rely on the classic space themes but invents new ones with some very interesting twists. The drug Crimson is a great detail and well used while the dynamics of using symboints is interesting. I wish the world building had been more fleshed out and this plot could have easily been pushed to a longer novel and better for it. What is offered in the novella is enough to recommend to readers and of the three Men in Space books, definitely read this one. The other two are decent and bland, but for science fiction fans the most interesting world is in this book. The romantic connection between Ben and Adam is perhaps the weakest of the three books but not enough to disappoint romance fans.
Overall I liked the Men in Space trilogy but I wouldn’t re-read any of them.
Get it HERE!