Title ~ The Tide of War
Author ~ Lori A. Witt
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 22nd June 2015
Genre ~ Sci Fi M/M Romance
Lieutenant Commander Kyle West is one of Earth Fleet’s greatest fighter pilots. Every day, he leads his squadron into battle over Earth’s cities in a seemingly endless war against a vicious alien race, defending his home and his loved ones.
Millions of miles away, the Fleet’s Elite Squadron attacks from another angle, engaging the enemy on its home turf. Casualties are high, and the Squadron needs more of the Fleet’s very best. But joining the Elite is a death sentence — a surety Kyle isn’t willing to face. Until a devastating attack wipes out the family he refused to leave.
Commander Andrei Dezhnyov, an Elite Squadron gunner, isn’t sure what to make of the cocky new American pilot. Kyle is equally uncertain about the snarly Russian, but as they warm up to each other, their tentative alliance becomes a deep bond — one that endangers them both when a daring and disobedient rescue reveals secrets that call into question everything they’ve ever believed about their enemy. Secrets that their superiors would kill to protect.
I’m a big fan of L. A. Witt’s work—Unhinge the Universe, co-written with Aleksandr Voinov, is one of my all-time favourite novels—so I was very keen to see what Lori Witt would come up with when writing sci fi genre fic where the emphasis was on plot rather than romance.
First of all the background. Earth has been under attack for decades by the hideous Menarians, an alien force that enters the solar system via a wormhole, makes random but devastating attacks, usually on large urban areas, then disappears back into the wormhole again. For defence the Earth relies mainly on small highly manoeuvrable craft manned by a pilot and a gunner who dogfight with the aliens and drive them off. The very best are chosen to go through the wormhole to join a base above the Menarian home world and attack their military bases. Casualties are high in both theatres of war and Kyle and his gunner, Emily, are under pressure to join the home world base. Kyle refuses because, although as far as the military is concerned he is married to Emily, he lives very happily with Griff, with whom he has adopted a child, in a large apartment building near London. Emily, too had a happy relationship but her wife was a casualty in an attack before the story begins. She is eager to take the fight to the aliens but respects Kyle’s desire to remain with his family.
Then Griff and the child are killed when the entire apartment complex is destroyed in a catastrophic attack on London. Grief-stricken, Kyle agrees to leave Earth behind him and join the fighters lead by the magnificent husband and wife team Ogrufina Teretev and Andrei Dezhnyov, upon whom Kyle has a hero-worshippy crush. As Kyle gets to know him, sees his work at close quarters and begins a relationship based on mutual desire and rivalry, this crush intensifies, leading to a crucial plot point.
There was so much to enjoy in this book that I’m not sure where to begin with it. First I’d like to say a bit about the female characters, especially Emily and Ogrufina. In a lot of M/m fiction females fall into one of several tropes, usually unpleasant. It was vastly refreshing here not to find any evil-exes or ditzy best friends. Both women were strong, vital, and competent with their own ambitions and agendas. I loved them both to bits.
Kyle and Andrei are also both very compelling characters. Both have suffered huge losses, both are motivated by hatred and revenge. That they spend a little time together in bed to release some of their tension seems perfectly reasonable in a setting where such things are sanctioned as long as all concerned are ready to fly when summoned. I also loved that Andrei is comfortably bisexual. He adores his wife, who also has her stress-relieving adventures, and they work together as a perfect team, but he can appreciate and enjoy the men around him as well. It struck me as I was reading that this was one of the things that made it so much a work of speculative fiction, and so much more grown up than the 1950sesque sexually repressed space operas that some insist are the ‘only right way’ to write sci fi.
But best of all is the plot. Clues as to what is at stake are dropped carefully throughout the book so the reader is a step or two ahead of the protagonists, but that is understandable – we are seeing the whole picture, they are seeing bare glimpses through a haze of gunfire, grief and exhaustion. As they fought their battles, sifted through the information and came to a workable solution I was rooting for them every step of the way. The story ends with challenges still to be faced and I really hope that Andrei and Kyle’s story will continue. There could be a sequel, maybe, if Lori has the time and energy. I really hope so.