“ Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Author: Christina Engela / Publication Date: 2011 / Publisher: Luna Books „
This is another tale in transgendered author Christina Engela's space series and once again based on and around the planet Deanna; an isolated human colony whose sun is called Ramalama and its twin moons, Ding and Dong (a local joke!). Timaset Skooch is down on his luck. His Pivate Eye business is not doing so well and so he turns to a game of cards to try and keep his mind off his problems. Unfortunately though he wins big, he is promptly mugged. Fortunately, the muggers leave him with the deeds to a cargo ship he has won. A loderunner owned by a local Captain. Unfortunately, Skooch knows nothing about Loderunning..... In a bid to try and recap his lost winnings, Skooch arranges a series of cargo runs which includes a herd of the square cattle that Deanna is known to breed (easier to store, these cattle nonetheless have a habit of falling over and not being able to get up ~ lord help you if you are underneath at the time!). He also arranges through a local Mafia boss to escort some passengers to a planet back in the home system in the region of Earth. And that is where his problems really begin..... Because Skooch's passengers are not what they seem. A point that is made clear when the ship he is supposed to be transporting them to opens fire on Skooch and his Loderunner! This is an interesting sci-fi tale with lots of fun and humour but which radically addresses the whole nature of Gender and what it means to be male/female and every combination of the two. Engela's transgenderism obviously plays a big part here; Skooch is engaged to a transvestite, convinced he should be a woman. Skooch's best friend is engaged to a woman who once was a man and one of their passengers alsso has questions of gender. For those easily offended and not interested in such subjects, this book then should probably be avoided. But that would be a shame because this is actually quite good sci-fi! Okay, the transgender issue here feels a bit forced down your throat (no pun intended) and there seems to be a LOT of gender-bending going on in such a small area of space but this is an issue that has had its feet in Engela's work in the past even if not quite this heavily before. I found that the heavy transgender angle actually distracted here from what was actually quite a clever story. If it had not been quite so blatant though, I think it would have made this novel better! Like I say, I don't have a problem with it but there do seem to be a lot of transgender characters in this little corner of the universe and that at times strains credubility seeing as they make up only a small part of Earth's population. Unless you take the opinion that maybe the reason there are so many out here is because they have either been forced to leave Earth or left because of heavy gender prejudice?!? This is not alluded to however and is just me trying to fill in the gaps. Regardless, aside from all that this is actually not a bad book and it is good to be back on Deanna again which is one of my favourite locales in Engela's work. It is only a shame that she has not written much more than the books of hers I have reviewed but then judging at how she has used this paticular book as her soapbox maybe that is a good thing. Less, like they say, is sometimes more!