Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
In a future where the United States has split along party lines, Agent Matt Tennimore’s job is to get people out of the Confederated Red States, whether they’re captured special ops agents from his own country or gay CRS citizens who’ve petitioned for asylum. He never expected to have to retrieve his high school crush, aka the guy who ostracized him for being gay.
Rescuing James Ayala isn’t going to be easy: he’s crawling with tracking nanos and has a cybernetic brain implant that’s granted him psychic power he isn’t sure how to control. That’s the good news. The bad? The implant is compromising James’s mental stability.
So they’re on the run, avoiding surveillance by AI aircraft and hiding from enemy militia. Then James confesses he tormented Matt in high school because James wanted him. Matt can’t resist the temptation James offers, but he wants so much more than sex, assuming they ever make it home alive. Is James really a good bet when he’s got a ticking time bomb in his brain and there’s the question of how much he’s actually changed?
I was really looking forward to this book. I’ve wanted to read it for years, so my expectations were of course especially high. Unfortunately, “18% Gray” ultimately didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
The idea that the USA will split into conservative and liberal parts in the distant future is not something I’ve come across before. I think that’s actually somewhat realistic, though a bit more historical background as to why and how exactly that happened would have been nice.
James’ brain is essentially a ticking time bomb. The implant in his brain is acting up and giving him weird new abilities he seems to have no real control over. That part was utterly intriguing and very well written.
Matt is a badass mercenary guy who’s still hurt because James called him a fag once in high school. Too bad he now has to go and rescue James. I’m usually not too fond of the enemies-to-lovers trope but it worked here. There wasn’t a huge gulf separating the two of them, so I was much more inclined to believe they were able to overcome the hurt feelings of the past. Still, I never quite felt any real chemistry between the two of them.
What bothered me the most was the amount of sex in this book. Or maybe not exactly the amount but the moments when they chose to have sex. James and Matt are running for their lives and yet there’s a time for a quickie? Even though the enemy is hot on their heels? Even though the enemy could easily discover them if they make too much noise? They were never able to keep their hands off each other, no matter how dangerous the situation. That just seemed incredibly unrealistic and really spoiled the suspense for me.
Most of the time it felt a bit as if the plot had to take a backseat, just so the two of them could either have sex or sink into relationship angst. It was just over the top.
The supporting characters were very clichéd and sometimes pretty annoying.
Overall, I still liked some parts of the story and mostly felt entertained. There is room for improvement, though. I probably won’t read the next part of the series, even if the next couple promises to be exciting as well.
Long story short: If you like steamy romance between two badass military boys with a dash of dystopia, then this is the book for you.
If, however, you’re looking for dystopia with serious world building and a realistic romance, then keep looking.
Cover: The cover by Anne Cain shows our two heroes with a desolate landscape in the background. It fits the story and the shirtless eye-candy is also very nice to look at.
ebook, 280 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 31st 2011)
Original Title18% Gray
ISBN 1613720793 (ISBN13: 9781613720790)
SeriesTask Force Iota #1 settingIdaho (United States)
Oregon (United States)