In Heaven and Earth by Amy Rae Durreson

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Published: July 2015 by M/M Romance Group @ Goodreads
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Sci-fi, romance, fantasy
Source: M/M Romance Group @ Goodreads
Reading Challenges: #ReadMyOwnDamnBooksThe 2016 Sci-fi Experience
Available: Publisher (electronic)

When the crew of the Medical Explorer Juniper arrive at the space city of Caelestia, they are horrified to find it floating airless in space with thousands of its people dead. The only survivor is a cyborg gardener, Vairya, who has been left amnesiac and terrified, barely able to choke out a few words: “It could happen again.”

As ex-military doctor Reuben Cooper explores the illusory rose garden of Vairya’s memory, where Vairya himself flirts and hides among the flowers, he discovers a terrible threat, not just to the crew of the Juniper but to all humanity.

Can four doctors and a cyborg fight a merciless enemy that can kill with a touch?

I adore Amy Rae Durreson’s work and In Heaven and Earth has done nothing to deter me. This novella has all of Durreson’s trademarks–solid world building and a sturdy plot alongside a sweet romance.

The story gets off to a dynamic start with the crew of the Juniper investigating the aftermath of a planetary apocalypse but slows after the first scene under the weight of world building and back story. Fortunately, Durreson manages to deliver her exposition in a way that makes sense in terms of the situation and still keeps the action moving forward. By Chapter Two, the pace has picked up.

Although In Heaven and Earth is science fiction, Durreson is primarily a fantasy writer and it shows. The science is fairly light and verges on magic in a few places. There is also a couple of charming interludes in Vairya’s mind which he has shaped to resemble a fantasy world. While I had no problems with the fantasy elements (and actually enjoyed them quite a bit), it may not be your cup of tea if you prefer your sci-fi hard.

The plot itself kept me guessing and maintained the tension very nicely. Durreson does a great job of illustrating the desperation of the situation in which Reuben and Vairya find themselves, adding a wonderful bittersweetness to their developing relationship.

I was also charmed by the characters. Reuben has been damaged by past experiences that shook his faith in humanity. His relationship with the rest of the crew of the Juniper is uneasy and this is cleverly brought forth during Reuben’s adventures in Vairya’s mind. Vairya, on the other hand, retains a sweetness and a joy for life, despite being essentially immortal. I particularly enjoyed this subversion of the trope.

I’m so glad I saved this for my holiday reading because it meant that I was able to dive in and not come up for air until the end. If you’re a fan of sci-fi romance, you should definitely check out In Heaven and Earth.

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