Death's Head - Mel Keegan
I came to Mel Keegan via her vampire book, Nocturne. This is very different, so different that you would be hard-pushed to say that they were written by the same author. Nocturne seemed to me to be very obviously written by a woman: it was romantic, sexy, languorous, and almost feminine in its intent. This is like reading a boysí own in space: adventure driven, hard, fast-paced and slick. The heroes Jarret and Stone arenít gay, they just like f****** other men, something that seems pretty common in the twenty third century. If I had a gay teenaged son (older teen, the sex is fairly graphic), then I would love to think heíd identify with the two men in this book. They would make great role models, which I guess is why this book and its sequel have such a cult following.
As the book opens, Jarret and Stone, top NARC operatives (an elite paramilitary force set up to combat drugsí runners) are partners on a particularly dangerous mission. Jarret is in deep cover with the drugsí barons and Stone is monitoring him. Theyíve been partners for four years and both harbour secret desire for the other, but the NARC rules, forbidding intimate contact between operatives, has kept them silent. Jarretís cover is blown and he disappears. Stoneís search for Jarret takes him into terrible danger, too, and to survive they have to come a great deal more intimate than either of them anticipated.
The love story between the two men is frustrating at times as they spend the book either apart or so busted up that they canít get up to much anyway. They do have hot sex, but most of it is in dreams. The sci-fi parts of the books are remarkable, if you are into that kind of thing. Keeganís world is very vivid and well described. Itís a little bit like the world created in Firefly, and I wouldnít be at all surprised if Joss Weedon had read these books. These people are still very human and they have human foibles despite the advanced technology they live in. Star Trek, with its insane purity, this is not.
It certainly helps this novel along that Jarret and Stone are both awesomely beautiful, and in that you can see the evidence of a female author. She brings them and their gorgeous bodies and faces alive and it makes you care deeply for what physically happens to them. Iím not convinced she makes them equally attractive as personalities. Jarret spends most of the book with memory loss of who he is and almost no personality. Stone spends a great deal of the book drugged and spaced out (through no fault of his own). I just didnít get as committed to them as I have with characters in other novels.
That said, Iím certainly going to track down a copy of the sequel, and I have another Mel Keegan on order. These books stand head and shoulders above the quality of most ďmainstreamĒ books. That they are gay orientated as well is almost too good to be true.
This novel is a just-about-perfect romance.† I raced through desperate to find out what happens, though conflict is never forced or contrived.† Keegan works magic, infusing the usual sci fi mix of action and technical geeky stuff with delicious eroticism, sweaty sheet-drenching mansex and sensuous love-making.† With enough Western-in-space shoot-outs and battle scenes to satisfy anyoneís need for thrills and danger, the story is so involving I got very annoyed when anyone disturbed my concentration.†
Set in a 23rd century convincingly not that much different from our world, but futuristic enough to be believable.† No weird aliens either, mostly men, with a few sympathetic female characters.†
Sex, whether gay, straight or bi, is a normal part of life, openly enjoyed without guilt or hang-ups.† A male nurse can read a gay porn mag on the ward and share the pictures with a straight woman visitor, the same down-to-earth character who also enjoys watching young men at pleasure.† Sounds perfect, eh?† Thatís the freedom conferred with the sci fi genre I guess.† Maybe someday itíll come true.
Romance is what itís all about, but not soppy or saccharine.† These are macho heroes with healthy appetites, tough and strong, capable fighters and commanders of men, yet unafraid to give their hearts when it feels right.† Sex is good, but love makes it better- though it doesnít turn them into feminised wimps.
Kevin Jarrat, 31, has the devilís own luck, a wayward stubborn character with grey eyes, long auburn hair and boyish good looks he knows how to use to his advantage.
Jerry Stone, 32, is tall and handsome, with short black hair.† An acid mix of love & lust has been eating the insides out of him from the moment Jarrat transferred onboard command ship Athena, lithe like a dancer or acrobat with his long legs and slim hips.
For two years Jarrat & Stone of paramilitary force NARC have broken every rule in the book, save one.† Like the Theban Band, a kinship of warriors welded in the heat of battle, theyíre closer than brothers, but theyíve never shared a bed, though not for want of desire.
Jarrat is working undercover in spaceport Chell, a shooter for Deathís Head the company peddling Angel, a drug so powerful to become a user is a death sentence.† While Stone ponders violating the fundamental NARC code of non-involvement (gay sex is fine but it has to be casual), Jarrat has beautiful raven-headed Lee, giving far more than required of a boudoir boy.
Then Jarratís cover is blown and heís raped and beaten to a bloody pulp.† Luckily he gets picked up by a Good Samaritan and taken to a doctor with the medical expertise required to put the broken body back together.† Meanwhile Stone tries desperately to find Kevin, following his trail across space.
Mending Jarrat is more than a patch-up job.† Can Harry Del, a psychic healer, work a miracle?† In the 23rd C healers are the queers, so-called deviants, genetic misfits treated like gay people in our world.† They get inside your head and know your most intimate secrets, kinks and fantasies.† And Kevinís in no condition to give consent.
Itís a very suspenseful story.† I longed for Kevin & Jerry to get together so that burning desire could become passion fulfilled.† Love, of course, is the key, as both men prove beyond any possible doubt what they feel for each other is the real thing.† When I say itís a page-turner I mean it, action packed and juicily sexy too, what more can we ask?
I was loath to leave Jarrat & Stone but Iíve just discovered thereís a sequel Equinox and a third book in the works. †Right now however itís romantic pirates on the Spanish Main, with Keegan historical, Fortunes of WarÖ
Check out Melís website, Dream Craft, where you can find out anything you want to know about the writer/books and order copies otherwise hard to find.†