Title ~ The Silvers
Author ~ J.A. Rock
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 11th July 2016
Genre ~ Science Fiction M/M Romance
What humans want from the Silver Planet is water. What they find is a race of humanoids who are sentient, but as emotionless and serene as the plants and placid lakes they tend.
B, captain of the mission, doesn’t believe that the “Silvers” are intelligent, and lets his crew experiment on them. But then he bonds with Imms, who seems different from the others—interested in learning, intrigued by human feelings. And B realizes that capturing, studying, and killing this planet’s natives has done incalculable damage.
When a fire aboard B’s ship kills most of the crew and endangers Imms, B decides to take him back to Earth. But the simplicity of the Silver Planet doesn’t follow them. Imms learns the full spectrum of human emotions, including a love B is frightened to return, and a mistrust of the bureaucracy that wants to treat Imms like a test subject, even if they have to eliminate B to do it.
The Silvers is an absolutely brilliant story. It is haunting, moving and unbearably beautiful.
“A Silver’s heart drifts through its body, bumping softly against walls and other organs. Sometimes it’s illuminated, and you can see it beneath the bruised skin, floating along like a lantern underwater.”
For all its fascinating world building, don't think this is a run of the mill sci-fi story. It’s not so much about the science and it’s not the usual tale about aliens. The Silver Planet, the mission, the connection formed between B and Imms are all just instruments used to explore the intricacies of human nature. Reading The Silvers was a very introspective experience and while unsettling, it was weirdly satisfying to dig through the layers and face the uncomfortable truths. It's message is poignant and the story itself harsh, but every single light-hearted, sweet moment was all the more precious for it.
I found it easier to connect to Imms, the alien character who was unable to experience most human emotions, than to the human characters. Imms leaves his peaceful, uncomplicated planet for the cacophony of sounds, colors and complex rules that is earth. Extremely intelligent and curious, he adapts to every new situation, is almost mathematical. Humans are alien to him and through his eyes I came to regard them the same way. I was observing alongside him, dissecting behaviors, being appalled and pleased in turn. Imms is the heart of the story, complex, caring, unique. B is another story altogether. I went back and forth between liking him and judging him and at some point I realized how sneaky the author was when writing him - Imms is a humanoid by default, non malicious and with no concept of rage and B is set to fail by comparison. Throughout the book there is no exoneration, no direct justification for any wrong decision he made. B is no knight in shinny armor, he is not equipped to save the day, he is realistically flawed, he is human. As a reader trained to expect certain things, certain tropes my initial reaction was to dislike him for his shortcomings. And as a reader I was amazed when it registered that this characterization, not making B the savior, the perfect being, is what redeems him.
J.A. Rock's writing is breath-taking, ranging from powerfully stark to dream like. The words crash like waves -sometimes with brutal force - and then pull back to reveal something more, like an afterthought, a nudge to a deeper meaning floating somewhere in the margins. The imagery she produces, beautiful and compelling, resonates with symbolism and often serves as a parallel narration. The secondary characters do not exist merely to propel the story, they add dimension to her commentary on the inevitable failures and redeeming qualities of human nature.
This is a romance in the sense that it is the relationship between Imms and B that sets things in motion, but this isn't a fairy tale. There is sadness and pain and mistakes made but there's also love against all odds. It's a journey between two worlds in more than one way. There is the promise of happy for now but also hope for the future and no matter how unconventional, the ending is honest and oddly romantic.
I loved this one to death. Be prepared for a major book hangover, but trust me, it's so worth it. This isn’t an easy read but it is extremely rewarding. Highly recommended.
Meet J.A. Rock
J.A. Rock is the author of queer romance and suspense novels, including By His Rules, Take the Long Way Home, and, with Lisa Henry, The Good Boy and When All The World Sleeps. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and a BA in theater from Case Western Reserve University. J.A. also writes queer fiction and essays under the name Jill Smith. Raised in Ohio and West Virginia, she now lives in Chicago with her dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.