Title : Turbulence
Author : Lyn Gala
Publisher : Loose Id (BUY IT HERE)
Genre : M/M, Science Fiction
Length : long novel
Published : October 22, 2013
Rating : ★★★★★
Corporal Jacqs Glebov is a simple soldier who wants a bunk, decent food and the company of other battle-hardened men and women who understand the realities of fighting. Instead he’s stuck patrolling a remote corner of the border with cadets straight out of boot camp. They don’t understand him, and he sure doesn’t have an ounce of respect for them.
After a field promotion, Earth sends Commander Zeke Waters to the Candiru for some practical experience in a leadership role. Instead, Zeke falls in lust with the adamantly heterosexual Jacqs. The way Jacqs fights and the way he sees the world draws Zeke closer, even if common sense tells him to walk away.
Even if they can find a way to find to reconcile their sexual differences, they are both still soldiers. The war will eventually take them away from each other unless they can find a way to escape the rules that have defined their lives.
Jacqs Glebov is not the sharpest tool in the shed. He keeps getting into fights, and propositioning the wrong women, and all around not fitting into the day to day military lifestyle on his ship, the Candiru. He meets a guy, Zeke, at a whorehouse and despite not getting the whore he wants as a result of meeting Zeke, Jacqs decides he kind of likes the guy. They get into a big brawl together when someone decides to beat up one of the whores. While in jail Jacqs learns that Zeke is his new superior officer, Commander Zeke Waters. Commander Waters is fresh off the front lines of the war and has battle experience that previously only Jacqs and the perpetually drunken captain of the Candiru have had. Jacqs finally has someone who understands the ridiculousness of the rules and regulations behind which the new recruits that make up the crew of the Candiru have been hiding. Jacqs and Zeke get each other. While training at hand to hand combat, something Jacqs hasn’t been allowed to do as he hurts people, Zeke and Jacqs beat each other up. Another crew member, who has never liked Jacqs, gets it into her head Zeke beat Jacqs because he refused Zeke’s sexual advances. Jacqs is confused by that. He is stunned to realize Zeke is in fact very interested in him sexually. More surprisingly, Jacqs realizes he doesn’t really seem to mind. He actually kind of likes the thought of sex with someone as powerful as Zeke despite the fact he’s always identified as heterosexual. While talking with Zeke Jacqs realizes it’s not so much a person’s gender he finds attractive but their inherent strength. He changes his registered sexuality and starts a romance with Zeke.
Things do not stay calm and fun for Jacqs and Zeke. Despite being on a small ship, far from the front, they are in the midst of a war. The Candiru is called for a strange mission. Nothing seems as command is describing it. They are to rescue a diplomatic envoy from a planet that is not all that habitable. Diplomats would have no reason to go. Zeke is reluctant to send Jacqs as he doesn’t want the man he’s fallen in love with in danger. They are, however, soldiers and will do whatever is necessary. Things on the planet are too calm until they’re in the middle of a firefight. Jacqs manages to take down a plane that looks suspiciously like a human plane. He gets separated from the rest of his team and realizes it is indeed humans trying to kill them. Jacqs does make it to their target, the downed diplomatic ship. When he gets on board he learns it is indeed humans attempting to stop a diplomat from the other side. The humans are set to lose the war. One of their enemy, an alien creature they refer to as a bat, is being taken to negotiate a treaty that will save countless lives over the next generation as a war that cannot be won is ended. Jacqs has to save his mortal enemy from other humans. He does so admirably. Both Zeke and Jacqs make it off the planet alive and safe, but they’ve lost comrades. They also don’t know if it’s really a treaty that is being negotiated. They’re left following orders that may well lead to their own death. For a few months after safely transporting the bat ambassador things are fine. The most troublesome thing Jacqs and Zeke have to worry about is Zeke’s cold. Then they get news of which planets are to be given to the bats as part of the peace treaty. The Candiru is dispatched to a mining planet to assist in the evacuation of the miners. Jacqs knows it will be very bad. He grew up in refugee camps and went through multiple evacuations. Then they get word the transport ship has reported engine troubles and won’t make it. The Candiru takes as many high risk refugees as they can safely carry. Then Zeke signs himself off the crew so they can fit more children aboard. Jacqs does the same despite the knowledge the bats will be taking over the planet imminently. They’re left with no means of escape with the other miners when the bats finally arrive.
This is a wildly complex story told from the point of view of a very simple man. I would not refer to Jacqs as stupid, but he certainly saw the world in black and white. Or at least very dark and very light. Jacqs is perfectly aware there are many things beyond his understanding, he simply refuses to dwell on situations beyond his control. Jacqs is content to have food, a bed, a job at which he is good, and a lover under whose bunk he can put his boots. Jacqs has lived a life beyond his own control. Zeke has always been in control of the things around him. He can’t help but look at the ramifications of the situations the crew of the Candiru find themselves in and be terrified. Jacqs is forever calming him down. He is a stable place for Zeke to have his existential crises. Time and again Jacqs returns Zeke to duty more calm and capable than when he found him. Jacqs, the brute who seems incapable of following the most simple regulations aboard the ship, proves himself to be a very capable mate to a commanding officer.
One of the more interesting aspects of the story lies in the fact everyone must declare their sexuality. No one is safe from the personal introspection that comes with having to admit to yourself and others your sexual preferences. No one is safely anonymous in a world that presumes heterosexuality. Given we currently live in a world where only homosexual people are expected to declare a preference, it was a fascinating bit of world building and lent the book an air of social commentary so inherent in science fiction. Of course the concept of unwinnable wars and the humane treatment of refugees, slaves, and possible prisoners of war were on board with the social commentary. This book ended up being a fantastic piece of romantic science fiction that I would highly recommend.