Flux Orbit by Emily Veinglory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s really rare that I can’t put a book down and it’s even rarer that I stay up late to finish a book. That hasn’t happened in over a year but I literally would not put this book down until I finished. I basically read it in a day and while I didn’t love the ending, or every part of the book, I think it’s fair to say I really loved reading this one. It’s not what I consider a five star/incredible but it’s 4.5 stars that I’ll round up since it’s that good. Although it started slow, once Kell was in contact with the Coil, the book took off like a shot. I knew Veinglory was a good writer but this book made me really appreciate her imagination and sense of adventure. I really respect an author that isn’t afraid to make daring choices.
Kell is a seasoned courtesan that has been purchased for Captain Jorihn Parr. Parr’s crew wants him to relax and have some fun after a harrowing journey and they think a little no strings sex is just the thing. Unfortunately Jorihn is not one to have sex with commitment and intimacy, which puts him at odds with Kell’s professional attitude. There’s an instant chemistry and connection, but the two men can’t seem to get through to each other, which leaves Kell with a broken contract and no reason to stay on Parr’s station. As soon as he leaves though, Kell crash lands on the planet and his “dead” body is repurposed for the sentient being that lives on the planet. The Coil wants someone to spy for them and stop humans from harvesting too much of the flux. Now Kell has to return to help Jorihn save the Coil’s planet against an evil corporation that will stop at nothing to get what they want. The only problem is that Kell can’t tell anyone, including Jorihn, who he really is.
Flux Orbit is heavily science fiction and there is a gay romance that plays prominently into the story, but for me the sci-fi aspects really dominated. The Coil, a sentient creature that pretty much kidnaps, kills, and reanimates Kell, is something similar to the Borg. It’s a collective conscious without real autonomous thought but it can allow parts of itself to separate. Those parts eventually need to reconnect with the Coil or they’ll eventually simply disappear. Kell is reformed as part of this Coil, but somewhat separate, being that he used to be human so he’s not completely human anymore but neither is he completely part of the Coil. It’s a good premise and works incredibly well here. I truly appreciated and loved that the story took such a risk with the main character to change him entirely, but that was when Kell and the story gained momentum and interest.
Kell starts as a classic hooker with a heart of gold. Instead his heart of gold is really inherent honesty and loyalty. He’s not above self-preservation and he has a very mature way of looking at the world. Being a child prostitute without any parents in a slum will do that to you I guess. He’s an interesting character to start but I was slightly bored by him. His romance with the captain, Jorihn, was abbreviated and frustrating. Jorihn initially is pretty weak and judgmental and the two men really do not mesh well together, outside of sex. I didn’t see what the attraction was when clearly Jorihn couldn’t get over himself to actually see Kell for the man he truly was and how he didn’t want or need someone feeling bad about his past. The fact that Jorihn is so ineffectual and placid about trying to communicate an attraction really turned me off him initially.
Thankfully both characters mature and develop once Kell “died” and was reborn as a spy of the Coil. The bleakness of Kell’s new existence started to come across and his confusion made him much more interesting. I could suddenly understand why Kell was so attached to Jorihn and the idea of having a relationship with him was the last vestige of humanity Kell felt he had or was capable of. Suddenly Kell’s internal monologue was heartbreaking and fascinating. His deep connection to Luc, the part of the Coil that left the planet to accompany and tend to Kell, was beautiful. To me, that relationship was the deepest and most meaningful, far beyond Kell’s romance with Jorihn. Not to mention the action started and simply did not stop for the rest of the book.
As much as I really enjoyed Flux Orbit, it was not without fault. I think the writing, while excellent, could have used a good editor. The author has an incredible grasp on imagery and detail but sometimes the sentence structure was awkward and difficult. Furthermore, the plot has a few holes. Sci-fi lends itself to some hand waving magic but there are some leaps, such as when Jorihn knew to put Kell in the three-oh when he was hurt the first time, even though Kell didn’t tell him about that important detail. Then there’s a wholly unnecessary and random scene detailing Jorihn’s previous connection to an earth political group that had no connection or relevance to the story. My biggest issue truly was that Kell lives. Now it probably would have been a sad romance if he died but the buildup was honestly done so incredibly well, and the near death scene itself was moving, that I felt the story cheated when Jorihn, out of nowhere, magically found a three-oh to save Kell. For a happy ending I guess it had to happen, but I feel as though it twisted the original story and characters. It’s not that I wanted him to die, but the story sold me on how that had to happen and Kell was, maybe not happy, but at peace with the fate since he had technically already died. That’s how I felt too.
Anyway beyond these issues, which I stress are minor, I think this should be a real treat for science fiction fans. For me the key to enjoying the story as much as I did was to connect to Kell as a narrator once he underwent the transformation with the Coil. Then I was absorbed and fully engaged. Up to that point I was mildly interested but kind of bored. I can see where a potential sequel could happen but I hope the author leaves this one alone. Instead I’ll heartily recommend readers take a chance on Flux Orbit. I already want to read it again.