A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: An uneven futuristic story that explores bigotry and bullying along with its resulting damage in a uniquely clever way.
Blurb: The first alien immigrants arrived on Earth long before Henry Meekes was born. Now they’re policed by the government, forbidden from attending school, and assigned menial jobs to prevent them from becoming drains on human society. Twenty-two-year-old Kaden, for example, was assigned the job of sex worker. When eighteen-year-old Henry and his friend Ellil meet Kaden in a grotty backroom to avail themselves of his services, alien rights are the furthest thing from their minds. It’s not until afterward, when Henry is trying to remind himself aliens can’t get enough of sex, that he questions his actions and the rules of the world he lives in. Something about Kaden compels Henry to return again and again—but only as a friend. Soon he and his classmates hatch a plan to free Kaden, but even if they succeed, the world is still full of prejudice against aliens—and those who love them.
Review: I have never so desperately wanted to give a story 5 stars as I have this one. It pains me–literally pains me to give it only 3.5 stars…but in all fairness to you dear reader, there were some flaws within this story that could not be overlooked–despite how wonderful it’s theme and intent proved to be. I also need to mention that this story was birthed out of Fanfic origins. As I am unfamiliar with Fanfic–(I know–GASP!) I will leave it at that. But let’s begin with the best this story has to offer–because indeed, it gave so very much.
“Henry shut out Ellil’s rush of dirty language. The alien was so beautiful that he didn’t want to hear it demeaned. Anything that could make him feel this good deserved to be praised, not called names.”
The place? Probably Earth. The time? Definitely well into the future. The reality that bigotry and bullying have somehow been eradicated in our future as a human race? Unfortunately, no–in fact, it has grown exponentially.
Henry is a high school senior and best friends with the governor’s son, Ellil. Because of the power Ellil’s dad wields, the boy never bears the consequences for his actions–and, because of this frustrating dichotomy, his teacher’s often give Ellil’s punishment to whomever he is hanging with at the time, poor Henry!
However despite this, Henry and Ellil share genuine affection for one another and fall into one scrape after another. Thus at the beginning of the story, we find them sneaking away from their boarding school to take in the sights and sounds of McDougall’s Fun House & Arcade–a place where aliens are free to show off their talents and move about independent of the government mandated drug Patacil–a sedative that made the aliens more manageable in their every day jobs.
It seems that in Henry’s society, at grade seven there is a DNA swab done on all students–those found to have alien DNA were whisked away, never to be seen again. In reality they were the workforce that ran the city–and the black market sex trade. Brutal, mindless and degrading–that is what pops to mind in this next chapter of the story.
Ellil and Henry decide to use the tickets they have won from skeeball to visit the back room of the arcade and have sex with an alien. What they find is, for Henry, an eye opening revelation. So many lies that they had been told about the aliens–how they enjoy repeated rape–of course men, paying and lining up to take advantage of an alien who is strapped to a table and forced to endure anal intercourse or give blowjobs is not called rape—no–because the alien likes it–really.
This was the first time I felt the bile rise in my throat.
Henry becomes besotted with the alien. He returns night after night–pays his tickets and sits, watching. As time goes on, he begins to wonder if the alien, who is drugged out of his mind, really does like his life. Then one night it happens, the alien speaks–two simple words that will turn Henry’s life upside down: “Help me.”
Henry watches then as Mr. Madsen–the alien’s keeper, cleans him up, rubs ointment into his bruised body and finally, after hours of enduring mindless rape, gets the alien off and then puts him to bed–in a room, with a single lamp, a mattress on the floor and a blanket. Mr Madsen reads the alien to sleep after drugging him once more.
Now I was pretty sure I was going to be physically ill.
I wanted to throw the kindle–I wanted to stop reading this haunting, visceral tale that had my gut churning and my mind spinning. I wanted to shout, “STOP, he may be an alien but you can’t treat him that way–oh please–someone, save him!” Clever—clever, author–to write with such vivid imagery–to place me there in that room and hold me there, my eyes wide open, but wanting to look away–just like Henry–oh my–this was an author who could write–yes, indeed!
The story continued and much to my relief, Henry began to turn away from the propaganda that aliens were less than human, unfeeling, mindless, not to be trusted, never, ever to be loved and he began to think for himself–see–really see what was in front of him! He began to see the bigotry, the hate toward this race of people. Interestingly enough it is Mr. Madsen who begins to make Henry see the truth.
“You called it ‘he’,” Henry said, realizing.
…Well, Kaden is an alien, not an animal. He’s as bright as you and me when he isn’t drugged. So, if you can’t give him the same pronoun you give a pet….”
A pet…they treated aliens lower than pets. As Henry began to realize that Kaden, the alien, was so much more than a “pet” the story takes off–and the adventure begins. Ellil, Henry and another friend, Avani, kidnap Kaden and take him to “the farm” where aliens are helped–counseled, weaned off the addictive drugs and kept safe. It is here that the shocking truth of Kaden’s real origins are discovered and all hell breaks loose for Henry and Kaden. The revelation of Kaden’s true self would result in the downfall of the corporation that produces the drug used to keep aliens under control and would change Henry’s life in ways he never imagined!
“As he walked away, he dwelled on the statement. Why not use his final semester for something good? He proposed the idea for student-run safety patrols to Ellil and Avani, in a week had Dowe’s approval and led off the first crew himself two weeks after that.”
And here dear reader is where the story began to fall apart for me. The rapid turn around in Henry’s demeanor—his mindset, simply staggered me. Add to that Henry’s parents, Ellil, Avani, their parents–everyone who had lived using and abusing aliens for decades suddenly doing a 360 degree turn and making nice–changing the status quo. It was simply too convenient–too easy.
Along with this was Kaden’s remarkable transformation into a “rock star.” What?? We had a paragraph where the boy liked to sing in the shower and 20 pages later he was in a band and a rock star?? He had been abused for YEARS and now he was happy–content–well adjusted?? No…it just did not ring true.
These two glitches in the story were huge. Ryan Loveless is a good writer–an excellent writer, but she needed a lot more story on the page to convince me that these dramatic changes were real and lasting. I really loved three-fourths of this novel. However, when it came to cleaning up the story, morphing these characters into whole human beings who could cope in every day life and live with their former abusive tendencies and notions–well, that is where this novella fell well short of its intended goal.
So, I regretfully gave Kaden’s Colors only 3.5 stars. But…but…I will say this: This author really bears watching–she is good–a deft story teller. Plus she has lots to say–important things to say–that each of us need to hear. I will most certainly read this author again. I hope you do as well.