“Variation on the Theme of Man”
by Toni V. Sweeney, 2014
This is a work of science-fiction, set hundreds of years in the future, in which humans have traveled into space and rub shoulders with dozens of alien races. As such, it seems jarring that the hero of the tale, galactic assassin Gabriel Marsh, expresses rather puritanical attitudes about a supposedly Gay man. He calls this man a “twist” and a “beddy-boy” and cringes at the thought of seeing him kissing another man. Heck, Marsh doesn't even like to see men kissing women because, despite his Terran name, Gabriel Marsh is an Angelus—aliens known for being the biggest prudes in the Federation.
While it's hard to imagine a future with attitudes that are dying off today, next comes the revelation that this seemingly effeminate man is Lexei Karanov, Marsh's new partner.
And worse, Marsh starts to find himself attracted to Lexei! But is Lexei really Gay? Or is he something far kinkier?
Their mission is... insignificant, apparently. It's three-quarters of the way into the book, after they've been partners for weeks or months, before anything like action occurs. Sweeney is far more enamored of her sexy characters than the plot about assassinating someone.
In spite of that, Sweeney does establish a unique love triangle, one well worth exploring. This is why they invented science-fiction; to explore hypothetical notions. This is a story that will get you thinking. Could you love a woman, knowing she was also a man?
I've focused on the plot, but the writing is good and fast-paced. That, and more action, would make this a great book. Even without much action, "Variation" is still a good book with some intriguing and well-developed ideas.