Turbulence by Lyn Gala
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m a huge fan of Lyn Gala’s works and she’s one of the only authors I tend to buy on trust. I know it’ll be good and I’ll enjoy it and maybe even love it. Turbulence is a good book. It’s well written, intricate, complicated, and has good world building and a solid romance. There is nothing I can overtly criticize except it just kind of dragged in the middle. The beginning sucked me in more than I expected and I was wholly invested in the characters and the world building but then, things got slow and uneven. I guess they had to considering the lull before the dramatic ending, but still. I struggled slightly there before picking up momentum knowing the ending was near. It’s a book I’d recommend to sci-fi lovers but I ultimately didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.
Jacqs is a simple gunner, uneducated and not too smart. He’s often gotten into trouble speaking his mind and has zero tolerance for anything resembling courtesy or politics. He’s crude and unapologetically in your face but he also follows an internal moral code. Most of his crewmates see him as a brute to be barely tolerated but new officer Zeke Waters sees more. Although Jacqs has never been attracted to a man before, Zeke is worth taking a second look at. Soon the two are hooked up and trying to stay alive and together through the complicated twists and turns of a species at war.
I admit when I read the dedication I got scared. I’m not a fan of obvious fan fiction and Firefly is of course sacred to me, and many others. The idea that a story would base from well known cult fiction worried me. There are obvious similarities through the whole story, but I felt as if the world created was different and new enough to stand on its own. While Jayne and Firefly may have been inspiration, I think Turbulence is an entirely unique story with some exceptions. The first is that Jacqs is clearly a replica of Jayne; the speech patterns, the common sense attitude, the propensity to do stupid things, lack of internal drama. I never forgot that throughout the story, but that said, there were enough differences in the story and world building to not bother me.
First the sci-fi world building is pretty impressive. Gala has an incredible writing style that breathes life into her stories and this especially came alive. I could envision the ship easily, while also appreciating the depth and complexity of the war and the bats. The story feels familiar while still offering new details. I especially liked and appreciated the new sexual definitions the author introduced. It expanded the current limited definitions by bringing just about any permutation into the story, thus making Jacq’s turn from straight to gay easy and without any drama That said, I feel as though the world building and overall writing are the best parts of the book. Both are superior but get caught in subpar characterization and a weird plot. To start the characters of Zeke and Jacqs, indeed most of the additional crew, are well rounded. They all are fleshed out and individual while catching my interest in most scenes.
My problems began when Jacqs and Zeke started to change. I felt as though it was a gradual change but especially towards the later half of the story, both men acted in ways I thought didn’t suit their personalities. I especially found their behavior towards the whole SC and Ambassador subplot to be out of character. I didn’t like this shift and found myself struggling to understand and like the new actions. At the same time the plot was slowing down to almost nothing so I was left with characters that seemed to change and a plot in holding mode. It created a definite drag in reading.
The plot itself is fine for the most part. There’s enough action in the story but the biggest problem is that at the heart of the story – it’s two men stuck on a ship together without much to do but have sex. There are a few subplots about fighting and the war between humans and aliens, but most of the time Jacqs and Zeke have sex while grumbling about how stupid their crewmates are and how stupid the command is. Then they have more sex. More frustrations and more sex. I got tired of this cycle and wanted something different. Unfortunately even the ending just seems to be an extension of this same dynamic. Jacqs and Zeke are happy when having copious amounts of sex in roughly a similar situation as before.
Overall I liked the story and was engaged for most of it, regardless of length. It did have a few drawbacks that kept me from loving it and wanting to read it again. I’d likely also not read any other books with these two but I am glad I read it. I’d cautiously recommend it to sci-fi fans as I think they’d probably like the intricate world building.