by Ann Vremont, futuristic (2008)
Changeling Press, $4.49, ISBN 978-1-60521-018-6
Oh my, I believe I'm starting to turn into a yaoi fan - well, the written equivalent, anyway - and I blame this on authors like Barbara Sheridan, Anne Cain, and now Ann Vremont.
Tokyo Ink is set in the future where New Tokyo is now a huge and sprawling glass pyramid of a city run by the Iyashii Corporation as if "Iyashii" is the new way to spell "Yakuza". In this city, we have the admittedly cheesily-named Tetsu Hogosha. He's the head of the security forces for Iyashii Corporation. However, his own unhappy origin ensures that he is more than happy to destroy the Corporation, hence his double life as an active saboteur of the Corporation. For a long time now, he and his accomplices have been using an unsuspecting male geisha as an intermediate for their correspondences.
You see, the poor dupe has no idea that the tattoo artist he frequents is constantly tattooing intricate patterns that are actually coded messages for Tetsu. As the dupe, called "Youran" (which means "Western Orchid" - the man is a Caucasian), strips and services the happy executives of the Corporation in the pleasure lounge, Tetsu will watch and study the tattoos on Youran's body. Understandably, he ends up being fixated on Youran as much as the coded messages on the man's body. When the story opens, an assassin is on his way to eliminate Youran. It is in Tetsu's best interest to let Youran - and the Code - die, but ah, men can be such fools sometimes.
Tattoo Ink is a most entertaining fast-paced read. There are lots of action, violence, and oh yes, sex, although to be honest I don't find the sex scenes too interesting because I'm more riveted by the action. Youran, fortunately, doesn't turn out to be some high-pitched drama queen who is useless in time of danger - in fact, he actually kicks some butt now and then here. While the relationship between him and Tetsu has plenty of formulaic yaoi dynamics, these two are actually pretty cool antiheroic characters that fit the urban fantasy setting very well.
The length of this novella - or the lack of it - is ultimately its downfall. I'm not saying that the story is awful in any way, it's just that the author has not much of an opportunity to really do things with her story. There are many instances where the author has to resort to telling me things instead of showing. I wish the characters have taken their time to fall in love because I want to savor the story a little longer.
Tokyo Ink is a most entertaining and memorable tale, although a part of me will always wish that this story has been longer and more detailed.
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