IN AGELESS SLEEP
AUTHOR: ARDEN ELLIS
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: SCI-FI, ROMANCE, LGBTQIA (F/F), NOVELLA, DISABLED MC, BLACK MC
Mal is a spy, a misanthrope, and a coward; growing up in the brutal Reaches has taught her that honor is a quality best left to the dead. Her latest mission: to hijack a cryo-ship carrying the brilliant daughter of the Sovereign King, and deliver her straight into enemy hands.
But when a vital component of the ship’s cryostasis system malfunctions, the only person who can keep the unconscious passengers alive is the woman Mal was sent to kidnap. Alone together on a ship of silent sleepers, Mal must remember that she and Aurora are enemies—or risk them becoming something much more dangerous.
There’s been a few movies in the past few years that use the ‘what happens while everyone’s in cryosleep’ trope and to varying successes. Air (2015) with Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou went down the psychological thriller route, whereas Passengers (2016) with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt aimed for romance and ended up with creepy, stalker horror movie.
In Ageless Sleep is what those movies could have been.
Plot and World Building
Ooooo…. It’s so simple and yet so good. The reawakening/sleep cycle that Mal and Rory are forced into is really well written, you can feel the repetition of the days slowly passing in total isolation, but it never feels dull or dragging. There were at least two points towards the end where I shook my Kindle, You can’t do this to me!, had to check the percentage bar wasn’t full yet.
The story is set against the, all to believable, interstellar civil war. The time of soldiers and upfront battles has passed and now subterfuge and sneak attacks against civilians have become commonplace. This background allows the reader to sympathise with Mal even while she acts as Rory’s captor. It creates a tension between the two characters, and always leaves open the possibility that they’re playing each other for an advantage.
Characters and Diversity
A well as the f/f relationship, the story has Aurora/ Rory, a black woman, and Mal, whose time in artificial gravity has left her with a limp and cane. Each character is more than this simple, though. Rory is a scientist and a genius, Mal is bitter but a true survivor. Their personalities play off each other so that you never know who has the upperhand.
This is a short novella that you can read in an hour, but it’s perfectly paced and manages a lot within its small wordcount. While I wouldn’t want the story lengthened for the sake of it (like I say, the pacing is bang on) I would have love to see it developed into something a little longer so that we could get some more time watching Mal and Rory’s relationship build, more background on Mal’s rough past and training, and maybe more on the ramifications of the hijacking.
(ARC received from Less Than Three Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)