I’m not really sure what category First Watch falls into, more sci-fi than anything else with a somewhat vague romantic thread and ending. I quite like the writing and the sci-fi bent with Edouard endebted to some sea creature for his life but the ending feels too easy and the romance feels thrown in and rushed. Despite these stumbles, I think First Watch stands out as unique, captivating, and worth reading. I’m interested to see what else the author has to offer but I’m leery about anything with a pseudo romance attached. I think the sci-fi elements are considerably stronger and better executed than the romantic additions.
The story starts with Edouard on his way to report to the captain for “duty.” This of course involves submitting to the many tentacles of the captain with all the various mouths and teeth. It’s immediately creepy, fascinating, and I couldn’t look away. Thankfully the story doesn’t go into too much detail but what it does offer is really well done. From there we eventually learn that Edouard was saved from death by this creature and therefore bound to him for eternal life. The creature uses Edouard for sex (I think) and Edouard calls upon his old friend Ruiz to help him kill the creature.
First off the creature is so creepy and well done that I immediately loved it. The story offers just enough details without giving too many so the captain is shrouded in mystery. It’s the writing equivalent of a dark, scary movie where there is almost never any light but the shadows move enough to scare you and get your imagination going. It’s not gruesome or horrific so much as simply ominous. We never learn exactly what kind of creature the captain is but probably some kind of mutant octopus with a thing for human men.
The plot is pretty basic with a few too stupid to live moments, such as Ruiz’s botched assassination attempt, but for the most part the writing helps make up for any stumbles in logic. The characters are pretty thin and flat as the story doesn’t really waste much time or energy trying to flesh them out. The main focus of the short story is definitely the captain and the situation Edouard is in. There are brief mental forays into the past to explain how Edouard and Ruiz met, but other than that the story stays firmly on showing their actions without a lot of explanation of their character.
Part of this is why the pseudo romance doesn’t really work for me. Because the characters are so thin and not really brought to life, their connection feels more of old time friends helping each other than old lovers trying to reconnect. Edouard and Ruiz supposedly have a romantic past but this is told to the reader and only the last sex scene shows any emotion between the two. This last scene feels tacked on and artificial. I didn’t really feel any chemistry between Edouard and Ruiz and in fact felt more confused emotion between Edouard and the captain.
Overall I liked reading First Watch but definitely more for the science fiction angle than for the romance. The first is well done with some really inspired writing and imagination while the second feels manipulated and added in rather than natural and fitting with the story. I’d be interested to read what the author does next as long as it has a sci-fi bent.