Stellarnet Rebel by J.L. Hilton is really good science fiction romance. The heroine is a blogger, which made it particularly fun for me! Not many blogger/heroines in science fiction romance. Or anywhere.
Genny O’Riordan is the blogger. She “shifts” in from Earth to Asteria to find a story that will make her blog, that is kick it up into the Stellarnet Top 100. That’s her big dream. The story she wants to break is a universal story of corporate greed, just moved out to the deep-space colony of Asteria.
Asteria sounds like Babylon 5 without the aliens and without the interstellar wars. (Well, almost, but we’ll get to that in a minute) Babylon 5 had “Downbelow”, where all the people who were too broke to buy passage back “home” and not skilled enough to get decent paying jobs mostly lived in the corridors. “Downbelow” was a slum, except with even fewer options. Asteria is a lot like a civilian Babylon 5, and there are too many people on Asteria who have either been forcibly shipped to or conned into shifting to Asteria and living as “overload” — in other words, living in the corridors and overloading the ecological systems. On a space station, that’s even more serious than on a planet, any planet. Humans can’t breathe vacuum.
There are also a lot of obsessive online gamers on Asteria, playing an immersive Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) called Mysteria. There’s no lag time if you live on Asteria, the way there is on Earth. That’s a big deal to a truly obsessed gamer.
Asteria has a military commander, Colonel Blaze Villaneuva. Blaze is the one trying to keep the lid on the pot. His U.S. Air and Space Force mostly act as MPs. And they keep Asteria flying. Blaze is a realist more than he is a stickler for the rules. And part of Blaze’s reality is that there isn’t any water in space.
Blaze gets most of Asteria’s water from Duin’s clandestine raids on a nearby planet, his former home.
Duin is a Glin. He’s an alien. He’s the only alien on Asteria. His planet was conquered, and devastated, by another alien race, the Tikati. So Duin spends his days in the Asteria Colony market, making speeches about the oppression of his people to anyone who will listen. Because Duin has read all about the human drive for freedom, and he believes that somewhere, some human will want to help him free his people. He just has to keep believing. And speaking.
The first time Genny walks through the Asteria market, she hears Duin speak. He is passionate about the plight of his people. He is also incredibly articulate, even in a language manifestly not his own. And Genny is utterly captivated by him. At first, she believes it is because she has found a story, and a cause, that will rocket her blog not just into the Stellarnet 100, but maybe into the Stellarnet Top 20.
But the more time she spends with Duin, the more she involved she becomes with him and his cause, the more she realizes that it is the man, the Glin himself, who has captured her heart and soul.
Does love mean the same thing to a Glin that it does to a human? And will the blind prejudice and hatred of other humans conspire to keep them apart?
Escape Rating B: I absolutely adore the idea of the Stellarnet. It seemed like a merger of the blogosphere, Twitter and the constant stream of headline news all rolled into one. As a blogger, Genny is online to her fans almost constantly, to the point where Genny does debate whether or not to blog herself having sex, complete with video. But the concept of the all-invasive, all-intrusive Stellarnet, of fans living vicariously through a blogger/star does not seem far-fetched from here.
Duin was a little bit too good to be true for me. Especially when Belloc, the second Glin, came into the picture. I understand that the author used Belloc to show that the Glin attitude toward sex and relationships was not just different, but, in fact, alien, but that part of the plot didn’t quite work for me.
I liked Genny and Duin together. It felt more realistic in the relationship when he got so caught up in the cause that he lost sight of the person he was involved with. That happens. Belloc’s plot maybe should have been book 2.
Speaking of book 2, Stellarnet Rebel is the start of a series. I’m looking forward to it!