by Auburnimp and Michael Barnette, futuristic (2008)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-502-2
Hajiri's Pet is an interesting futuristic gay romance set in a post-apocalyptic version of Earth where genetically engineered human-animal creatures co-exist, fight, love, and lost with weary human beings.
Unfortunately, the authors have not come up with their own made-up word that they do not love to pieces. Hence, in just the first five pages alone, I'm bombarded with the following jargons: "corpers", "simvids", "genengineered battlepet", "cybered up", "fangsoldier", "corpdollar", "Yume", "mutie", "gangerbitch", "nilhuman", and "cybermodding". Some jargons, not all, get explained later in the story. Also, one can hazard a guess at to the meaning of these words.
However, I personally find it irritating when an author decides that "ordinary" words are too unfashionable and have to be replaced by awkward-sounding new words. What is wrong with "dollar", for example? And then there are casual mentions of things like the hero's in-built sensors and how the Demons (capital D, folks, so these are really special demons indeed) have "hellfire-eyes" that have me wondering what the heck are the authors trying to tell me here. The problem here is that the authors mention concepts and drop new words but at the same time they do not always develop these concepts beyond the superficial. It is as if these authors are name-dropping rather than genuinely trying to help readers visualize their brave new world.
Oh yes, the story. Yakamoto Hajiri is a former "gunwhore". That means he's a bodyguard as well as sex companion to the highest bidder. Don't ask - maybe he has built-in laser guns at the back of his head that will shoot anyone trying to interrupt his shag fest while he's busy riding bronco on his beau. When the story opens, a night of violence - business as usual, really - ends up seeing Hajiri in possession of a "nilhuman" "genengineered" snow leopard-human hybrid creature Zeshin. Because Zen, as our "Not a Breed! Really!" fellow is called if Zeshin becomes too much of a mouthful, is completely lost without a Master to serve, Hajiri can either toss him aside and let Zen live or die as the fates decree or become Zen's new Master. Hajiri is too cool to be shackled down by soft and weak emotions... or so he thinks.
I'm pleasantly surprised to realize how well this relationship between Hajiri and Zen works for me in this story. Hajiri is a pretty good hero in that he is an intriguing mix of unexpected nobility and the darker aspects of human nature, just like that worn and battle-weary fellow who finds himself unexpectedly touched and even mellowed by his feelings for another person. I'm prepared to cringe at Zen because I'm pretty sure he will turn out to be another pathetic moony little girl pretending to be a gay twink, but to my delight, Zen turns out to be... well, Zen is created and nurtured to be who and what he is, and in this story he manages to stay in character without irritating me silly. I don't mind his character at all. In fact, I think he is exactly what Hajiri needs. In other words, the authors have easily sold me a relationship that, in the wrong hands, would be a train wreck of a dysfunction.
Therefore, I am doubly disappointed that the authors ended up wrapping this delightful little gem of a story in a package full of underdeveloped world-building details. The large number of gratuitous made-up words and ill-explained concepts serve to distract me from enjoying the relationship between Hajiri and Zen. In the end, it is the relationship dynamic between Hajiri and Zen that wins me over in spite of all the irritating technical clutter that is present in the story.
Hajiri's Pet is, in a way, a very good introduction to these authors' brand new futuristic erotic series. I'd be really interested to visit the setting again and I also believe that these authors can give me the kind of dark but oh-so-pretty romance stories that I enjoy. I can only hope that they get the world-building thing worked out better the next time around.
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