Title: Song of Song
Author: LJ LaBarthe
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 93,703 words
Characters: Dex and Chen Lau Song
POV: Third Limited
Sub-Genre: Speculative Fiction, Futuristic, Action
It is the year 2275, and though some consider Earth a paradise, for most people on the planet or her outer-world colonies, it’s anything but.
Dex is a Boxie—a genetically engineered human created for the sole purpose of caring for wealthy bio-humans. His best and only friend is an AI cat named Manx, a secret Dex keeps from all around him. While he knows little about his sexuality, he’s attracted to Song.
Song designs ships that traverse deep space and has created the first fully sentient vessel called Fa’a. When he hears of a plot to capture Fa’a for nefarious purposes, Song flees Earth with a small band of misfits. Meanwhile, Dex’s fear of losing Manx drives him to take the cat and escape on a transport.
Song and Dex are brought together by chance. Just as their relationship blossoms from cautious and shy to romantic and erotic, new dangers threaten to destroy not only their love but also Fa’a, their friends, Manx, and all they care about.
“Song of Song” is a speculative fiction story set in a dystopian society where the genetically engineered humans do all the work the naturally born humans—”free”—don’t want to do. In essence, they enable the “free” humans to live as they want without worrying about how something will be made, cleaned, or cooked, etc. Yet Boxies are not encouraged to experience what it is to be human. In fact, they are actively discouraged. As a speculative fiction story, the plot is as strong a thread as the romance, if not stronger. The plot rolls along quickly, with action, intrigue, and wonderful interpersonal interactions between the characters.
I loved Manx. He was so much like a domestic cat in what you’d imagine they would be if they could talk, yet because he was an artificial construct not only could he communicate with people, he also became a guide in Dex’s personal growth due to his programming. And the fact that the “pets” were only given to the Boxies for the sole purpose of helping Boxies to be able to interact better with free humans when necessary, yet the other consequences of introducing the Boxies to compassion and emotion were overlooked until it helped the Boxies develop individuality and find their free will is so typical of corporate thinking. Of course, I also loved that Dex escaped from the Sydney, Australia, Boxie tower and was unashamedly Aussie when the others weren’t. It made for some interesting interactions between the characters, and the speculating on what Australia would become in two hundred years was fascinating.
L.J. LaBarthe has woven a wonderfully complex story I would recommend to anyone who enjoys speculative fiction, action, well-written characters who evolve throughout the story, intrigue, and stories of characters reluctantly thrown into heroics by an unjust system and unintentional consequences. Having read both “Ice”, a speculative fiction in another vein from early in LJ Labarthe’s writing career, and “Book, Line and Sinker”, a contemporary story written in the last year or so that I thoroughly enjoyed, I wasn’t sure whether this story would be great or merely enjoyable, and am glad I decided to read it. The story affected me so much that when I finished, it was with a ‘holy crap’ feeling and the inability to start another book for a bit. Definitely staying on my ereader.
Reviewed By: Alison
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