walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_My Man, Michael_, Lori Foster

Dara Joy's _Ritual of Proof_ was a bizarre but entertaining mashup of feminist gender-reversal-future-world novels and Regency Romances, complete with a male version of deflowering and a woman villain displaying Forbidden Love for her Nemesis our heroine, distorted through the lens of the Hot Young Thing, our hero.

_My Man, Michael_ is weirdly similar, but even less satisfying. Okay, a lot less satisfying (Dara Joy really has her moments, and it survives at least one reread). Kayli Raine, the Claviger (sort of head-beat-cop crossed with paladin) of her colony which is ruled by her mother, Raemay, goes backward in time to recruit an SBC (think UFC) fighter who has just been in a bad car wreck and is not expected to recover the use of his leg. Michael "Mallet" Manchester is feeling down on himself and the universe at large, until the hot chick shows up and offers him an opportunity to use his mad hand-to-hand fighting skills to defend her colony in exchange for complete repair of the leg.

Oh, and the colony expects him to pick from their many nubile virgins for a woman to join in union. See, there's a gender imbalance and not nearly enough people in general.

Mallet takes her up on the deal, but refuses to accept the But-Not-The-Warrior-Women condition -- he picks Kayli (duh), but they don't quite consummate the deal instantly.

It turns out the attacking colony is led by a spurned lover from Raemay's past (oh and btw, Kayli's dad -- bet you didn't see that one coming. Oh, wait, you did? Are you sure? Did Hauk, the ship computer tell you? No?). And the women who have been "sacrificed" to prevent future attacks by the other colony (predominantly male, of course) are quite happily hooking up with their abductors, bumping uglies and getting knocked up (remember, not enough men back home).

ETA: Bedtime interrupted. To return to the story before the interruption. . .

This novel neatly captures how the conservative of one year is often very different from the conservative of another decade. Yeah, the characters are overwhelmingly heterosexual and the plot line reifies a lot of ideas about gender, physical strength, blah, blah, bleeping, blah. No, Foster can't manage to pull off a consistent gender swap -- the Arbiter's Father was Arbiter before her. It's completely unclear how long the society has been matriarchal. One generation? If so, why are the traditions treated as being so long lasting? Who knows? Who cares? I certainly don't. Which brings us to the really interesting observation.

The end of the book fizzles in an oddly satisfying way. Mallet never goes home to the century of his origin, but he does send some pictures back so the SBC plotline can continue. We don't know for sure whether the bastard non-heir (Kayli) will ultimately unify the two colonies under her sole rule by inheriting from her mother and her father -- much less what kid sister Idola will think of all that. The whole mess of loose ends is tied up -- to the extent that it is -- with Mallet's little speech to his father-in-law on the merits of compromise.

And we never do find out whether unionized couples start using birth control after their first kid, whether people in the future actually carry kids the standard way and give birth or whether that's outsourced to AFAs or some other technology. The answers to this are significant, and it's just as well that Foster doesn't answer them, because I'm confident I'd have been plenty annoyed by anything she chose. Certainly Kayli's we-let-nature-take-its-course speech raises a whole lot of questions about why there are so few people around.

It's bad science fiction, it's mediocre romance and the gender-bending/feminist/wtf/surrender motif is at minimum annoying and really, really disturbing. Don't waste your time. Unfortunately, the odds are overwhelmingly good I'll get the next SBC book as a kindle edition, too. Someday, I will learn to stop doing this to myself.
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