Disclosure: I received a promotional copy of this audiobook free.
Blurb: He is an off-world assassin, a genetically enriched "catjob." But tonight he is on the run for his life. His name is Nickerson, and he has come to the most dangerous place in the universe: Earth.
Beneath the city streets he finds a maze of an underworld, where only the brutal survive. He finds BlaqJaq. Young, beautiful, a "streetmuscle" who has survived his hostile native environment by always being the strongest, by avoiding attachments.
When they meet, the two men are consumed by mutual desire. But the hunt is on, and Nickerson must flee deeper and deeper into this subterranean labyrinth, a land as primitive and lethal as the off-world colonies he protects are unsullied and paradisiacal. With BlaqJaq as his guide and deadly hunters in hot pursuit, it seems the two may never find more than a fleeting moment of desperate passion. In the claustrophobic tunnels of this savage underworld Nickerson and BlaqJaq must first survive, to fulfill their erotic destiny.
My thoughts: Happy sigh. There aren't nearly enough gay scifi books in my opinion, and there are far too few gay scifi audiobooks. This one was a pleasure to listen to, and it was real scifi - not just a romance with a few scifi trappings. In fact, I expect a lot of people will feel the romance is a bit scanty.
The setting is a dystopic future earth. Nickerson is a former inhabitant of the underground slums who got out and got a job he never names, but appears to by akin to espionage. He has returned to earth on a mission and is now being hunted by someone (or multiple someones). Blaqjaq is sort of law enforcement in an informal sense - there is no government underground, and street-muscle is, at its best, basically private law enforcement for hire. There is a sense of honor among most street-muscle (including Blaqjaq), but some are apparently just thugs.
Nickerson runs into Blaqjaq while on the run from whoever is hunting him, and they join forces. They are on the run for most of the story and the suspense is well done, making me fear for both for the main characters and the slum inhabitants who get in the way of the hunters.
The world building is lovely for the story length. Nickerson is genetically enhanced (a "catjob"). The hunters have some very scary weaponry. The underground world is a combination of high-tech and low-tech, as you would expect from a futuristic slum. It is rather reminiscent of Firefly in this respect. Some of the inhabitants are pretty much normal people living in a normal society (although it is barter-based and very poor) while others are much scarier and more violent and unpredictable.
The romance is probably the weakest part of the story. It is of necessity rather insta-love and the character development doesn't help, since the action is mostly limited to fighting and running. I was actually relieved that the main characters didn't stop in the middle of a chase for a long, romantic sex scene (since that would have been idiotic) but it does mean the romance got very short shrift.
This is the first of a series, and that was apparent, but I didn't feel like it was all setup, or that there was a cliffhanger. I look forward to the next installment, though I will read reviews to make sure it doesn't end in a cliffhanger - I am leery of series and I wait until they are finished if each story isn't fairly complete in itself.
Some mild spoilers under the cut.
Another weakness in my view was that Nickerson wasn't nearly as smart as he should have been, given his job over the years. I was asking myself how the hunters were tracking him, and specifically whether it was through his chip, from the very beginning. It seemed very unlikely it would take him so long to figure this out when it was plain his hunters could find him way too fast and accurately. I suspect this is a fairly new writer, and hope his editor does a little better job with this aspect next time. The revelation of who was chasing him, and why, was very well done though - really chilling.
I look forward to seeing how Nickerson and Blaqjaq handle the topside earth society, and eventually the off world colonies.