I do enjoy a great sci-fi story and this one hit the spot. It’s not a story I’d read again but the characters are likeable, the setting is interesting, and the storyline is engaging, if predictable. The pages flew by for me and I was satisfied with the ending. This isn’t perfect, but it’s easy to recommend for sci-fi/futuristic genre fans that like a little m/m romance and sex mixed in. It’s light, almost fluff reading, but entertaining.
Set sometime in the future, several decades from now, skin-to-skin contact is illegal. Everyone wears suits to cover any exposed skin and sex happens through simulations instead of person to person. Keith is a simtech, someone that runs the simulation equipment that gives people orgasms on a daily basis without needing to actually touch another person and have sex, and has never questioned the system. After weeks of seeing a patient that causes his pulse to race, Keith takes Aiden up on his offer to visit a sex lounge. These lounges, called wireless, are dens of iniquity where sex happens between people. It’s the equivalent of a sex club with no limits. However it’s illegal and if Keith were caught, he’d lose everything.
The actual premise is interesting and carries the story for the most part. There is enough tension to make Keith’s internal struggles credible and relatable. He’s a simtech used to following the rules and when shown another way to live, he’s addicted but torn by the realistic consequences. It’s nice to see that there are actually consequences to characters’ actions and that helped smooth over some of the rougher spots. For example, the laws that make skin-to-skin contact illegal don’t make a lot of sense. The main idea is to stop the spread of disease but that justification is flimsy at best. It’s one of those things you have to just accept for the sake of the story. That said I liked the world building. It’s competent enough, but without embellishment. The story is a contemporary like setting that doesn’t stray too far from modern but with just enough description to feel futuristic.
The characters themselves are pretty well defined. Keith is the first person narrator, but the story reads like a third person narration to me. Keith dominates the story first with his curiosity for real sex and then his need for more. His struggles to come to terms with his altered beliefs and reality account for the majority of the tension. There are several repetitious scenes of Aiden having his simulations set up by Keith and/or Keith waiting for Aiden to show up, but I think the story does a decent job of keeping the tension and action moving.
Aiden is less well described and acts more like a catalyst than a soul mate. His desire for Keith sparks the entire journey and eventually they fall in love, though this feels more like two people clinging to each other in desperation than true love. Aiden motivations are often unknown and have to be spelled out to the reader in excruciating detail. I got frustrated with these scenes, as the dialogue would work through the mistaken feelings first then reveal the true motivations. I would have preferred more subtly in these interactions.
The writing is decent and the sex scenes plentiful without being overwhelming. I found the story often predictable and sometimes Keith would act pretty silly. It’s easy to predict and expect certain outcomes that Keith seems oblivious to, which could make him a frustrating character. The overall quick action and moving plot kept me from dwelling on this too much so I could enjoy the story anyway. It’s not a story I’d read again – I didn’t love the characters, plot, or setting that much – but it was a nice change from contemporary romance and easy enough to read for futuristic fans.