Title: Grown Men (HardCell #1)
Author: Damon Suede
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Characters: Runt, Ox
POV: 3rd Person
Every future has dirty roots.
Marooned in the galactic backwaters of the HardCell company, colonist Runt struggles to eke out an existence on a newly-terraformed tropical planetoid. Since his clone-wife died on entry, he’s been doing the work of two on his failing protein farm. Overworked and undersized, Runt’s dwindling hope of earning corporate citizenship has turned to fear of violent “retirement.”
When an overdue crate of provisions crashes on his beach, Runt searches frantically for a replacement wife among the tools and food. Instead he gets Ox, a mute hulk who seems more like a corporate assassin than a simple offworld farmer.
Shackwacky and near-starving, Runt has no choice but to work with his silent partner despite his mounting paranoia and the unsettling appeal of Ox’s genetically altered pheromones. Ox plays the part of the gentle giant well, but Runt’s still not convinced he hasn’t arrived with murder in mind.
Between brutal desire and the seeds of a relationship, Runt’s fears and Ox’s inhuman past collide on a fertile world where hope and love just might have room to grow.
Grown Men is the sort of book that makes me feel entirely inadequate in the creativity department. There’s imagination, then there’s, whoa, Imagination, and Damon Suede seems to be possessed of the second type, the kind where you’re reading along and thinking, now why can’t I do this? Okay, maybe you don’t, but I do.
Mr. Suede’s mind is a fertile ground where the roots of this series are just gaining hold. HardCell is the conglomerate that’s building new colonies on alien planets, buying contracts on humans, then sending them out into the galaxy to develop places like planetoid HD10307-E into viable and profitable habitats to be populated once established.
Runt has been there for eighteen long, lonely months—alone since his clone-wife was vaporized upon entry into the planet’s atmosphere—and working valiantly to carve a niche for himself while he waits for her replacement so he can get about the business of populating his little corner of the universe. Trouble is, Runt’s a bit of a, well, let’s just say, if the name fits, wear it. Working his plot of land would be hard work with four hands, working it with only his two hasn’t exactly produced the results HardCell is looking for, and “HardCell Means Business!” Hard sell, indeed. When a crate arrives, carrying supplies, as well as what Runt hopes to be his new mate, he learns a quick lesson in the contradictory whims of fate.
In a world populated by genetically engineered hybrid species of eels and insects, Ox, in his gigantic body and afflicted silence, seems to fit in perfectly, though he’s not exactly whom Runt anticipated as a partner and cofarmer. Sometimes, however, survival, happiness, and the promise of love are all engineered around one’s ability to adapt, and around how much one is able to accept in order to thrive.
With a generous attention to world building, a briskly paced plot, descriptive language that paints the ideal mental picture of the setting, as well as an introduction to a couple of unlikely yet likeable heroes who will, as this series moves forward, have more to reveal to readers, Grown Men is a weird and wondrous beginning in the HardCell conglomeration.
Reviewed By: Lisa