Title: Duanta Beads
Author: Jackson Cordd
Length: 75 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m futuristic science fiction romance
Thousands of years after a cataclysmic explosion forever changes the atmosphere of the Earth, shelter dweller Evan journeys to the world’s surface in search of a way to help his people survive. What he finds is Rourke, a descendent of the humans who stayed above. They’re different: Evan and the other shelter dwellers are hairless, while Rourke and the other “Commons” have evolved fur to protect them from a harsher sun. As Evan searches for answers, the two men feel a growing attraction for one another, but Evan has been raised to think of Commons as subhuman. Can they look past appearances to explore their passion?
I was attracted to this story because it sounded so unusual. It’s set in the future, thousands of years after an event which divided mankind. Some remained on the surface to scratch out a living, evolving fur to protect themselves, and some remained in bunkers underground creating technology to extend their lives but ultimately unable to sustain such a small gene pool. Evan is one of those who lives underground. He’s a gene scientist who goes to the surface in the hope of examining one of the ‘commons’. He meets Rourke and finds that much of what he has been taught stems from lies and misconceptions.
I really found the premise of this story very interesting and I was quickly drawn into the two separate worlds of Evan and Rourke. Rourke’s furriness was a little offputting at first but the author did a good job in showing us how attractive it seemed to Evan, how soft and glossy, so I set aside my ‘Planet of the Apes’ images and focused instead on the growing attraction between the pair. What I found most fascinating was the way that the people living underground had organised their lives, grown almost robot-like in their interactions by setting aside sensory habits and focusing entirely on the mind. Evan is at first shocked and repulsed by Roarke wanting to touch him and one of the best parts of the story was seeing Evan gradually come to terms with touch and eventually come to revel in the security and love in touch.
Another aspect which worked for me was in the incidental details of life for Roarke. We find out much about the society above ground through snippets of information threaded through the story. Evan’s narrative also provides much in terms of the setting, but not in a way which dumped the information on the reader. He observes, and allows us to guess the rest, which worked for me as a reader.
I was so caught up in the story and invested in the journey of the characters that I was surprised when the story ended. The story finishes at a point where Evan moves from one part of his life to another, but instead of feeling glad, I felt a little cheated out of a longer story. The end left me with too many questions to be satisfactory and this could have been a much longer book. My disappointment stems from the fact that I was wholly invested in these characters, the future created by the author and the romance between Evan and Roarke, and the end made me want to stamp my foot and shout for more .
It’s been hard for me to pick a grade for this story. On one hard I loved it, loved the originality, the characters and the nuances to the story. On the other hand the ending brought me up short and made me feel cheated. In the end I’ve kept it in the B grade because it was very well written (despite a small amount of head-hopping) and I suppose all I can do now is to hope the author continues the story in a further book.