Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Letters to an Android by Wendy Rathbone: #Review

 Letters to an Android 
 by Wendy Rathbone 

Genres: Gay (M/M), Science Fiction, Romance
Length: 271 pages

Cobalt is a created human, vat grown and born adult, with no human rights and indentured to serve others for the duration of his life. Liyan is a young man with wanderlust in his eyes, embarking on a career that takes him to the furthest regions of space. The two become unlikely friends and create a memorable long-distance correspondence. Through Liyan, Cobalt gets to explore the universe, living vicariously through his friend's wave transmissions. A strong bond develops between them that not even the stars can put asunder.

Beer. Whiskey. Expensive wine. His friends offered him anything he wanted. Such good men and women. They had been fine co-workers, but he hadn’t gotten close to any of them. His schooling and his dreaming got in the way of any social life. But they were still generous and they all clapped him on the back as if he were some hero going off to save the universe.

In fact, he was going further than most of them ever hoped to get in a lifetime. 

The bar-light was warm and gold. The drinks weren’t as watered as usual and packed a punch. 

Not wanting to be hung-over on the shuttle ride the next day, Liyan slowed his drinking pace. He wandered away from the crowd toward the shadows by the end of the long, curving counter, and asked the young man making tall, fizzing concoctions of something purple and glittery for a glass of water. 

The man turned, slim and graceful, hair the hue of Technicolor seas on old ‘wave’ programs about true-Earth when it still supported life. He had to have been supremely distracted not to have noticed this man until now. His face had such a fine-tuned edge to it, angled and curved in just the right places, the eyes wide and down-turned down-turned enough to be coy but still masculine. Even more shocking, perhaps: the irises were the same shade as the violet fizzing drinks he’d been preparing. 

The man placed a glass of ice water in front of him. Liyan hadn’t meant to stare, but the man didn’t appear to mind. The bartender asked, voice a low tremor on the air, “Is the celebration going on over there for you?” 

“I’m leaving tomorrow, a job on a ship with C& C Starlines.” 

“I see. New realms. New experiences. A new life.” 

“That’s about right.” 

“Then I, too, would like to wish you all fortune in your travels.” 

Liyan blinked, oddly pleased though this man was a stranger. “Thank you.” 

“Where to, first, if I may ask?” 

Before Liyan could answer, a waiter came to pick up the three purple drinks. Soon they were alone again. Liyan had completely forgotten his friends. He said, “When the crew are settled and the ship readied, I’m told the first destination is Fair-Orb.” 

He nodded, his eyes going from mauve to gray in his neat attention. “That far. You’ll be a true star-man, then.” 

“Technically, yes. I passed the tests in the top fifth percentile in nav. I’ll be going on the long-hauls.” Most people didn’t pass them at all, not their first time or their tenth. 

“Impressive,” the bartender said. 

“For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted this. It’s been all work and no play for me.” He sighed, finally remembering his friends, looking over his shoulder. They hadn’t missed him yet. They were all occupied with their drinks and their jokes. 

“They say on Fair-Orb the stars meet the sea,” the bartender said. 

Liyan raised his eyebrows at such a beautiful but true statement. “It is made of mostly water.” 

“And at night the towers that jut out of the sea look suspended in space. You truly cannot tell where the seas end and the stars begin. Alas, I will never see it.” 

Liyan lifted his glass and took a sip of the cold, plain water. It cooled him, but the heat of excitement did not wane. He set the glass down and held out his hand. “My name is Liyan.” 

The man raised his hand to meet his palm to palm. “Cobalt. I am at your service.” 

“At my…?” It was a confusing line, one Liyan had not heard before. “Perhaps I should explain. I will never see Fair-Orb in my lifetime. I am locked into my work contract here. Forever.” 
“Work contract?” Liyan frowned. “Oh. I didn’t realize… you’re an android?” 

“It is a compliment that it was not obvious to you.” “I thought you were a really pretty… human.” He chuckled. “That’s all.” 

“Thank you,” the android said. “Of course now that you know this fact about me, you know I have no rights. Despite the longing in my thoughts.” His full, pink lips curved into a tiny smile. “I can only travel in other people’s stories. And I travel in my dreams.” 

Liyan did know that androids had no human rights. But he knew little else. “You dream?” 

“Of course. All beings dream.” 

Liyan said, “I’ve always been taught that androids are machines and that it’s wrong to think they aren’t. But I know you have organic components.” 

“Yes, all my components are organic.” 

“So you’re just like… like a person.” 

“I am.” 

“It’s sad, then.” 

“What is?” 

“That you can’t leave.” Liyan looked at the purple eyes and blue hair of his bartender. The skin of the face was such a perfect, smooth bronze. He should’ve guessed. But he’d never met anyone like him before. All he knew was that androids were bought and owned by the extremely wealthy who were the only ones who could afford them.

5 of 5 stars
Refreshingly unique, this is a slowly paced story, told mostly through Colbalt and Liyan's letters, but worth it in the end. The detailed descriptions of Liyan's adventures are divine and their relationship is completely captivating. I read it twice!

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