Genre: science fiction: dystopian
Pairings: f/f (could also be classed as f/nonbinary, the character in question hasn’t quite decided)
Queer Representation: cis bisexual, asexuality, trans, nonbinary
There’s nothing in the world as good as making a beautiful girl come.
Jacker Elena is on the run from AxysGen after the death of her crew during some ‘illegal’ activity.
Handler Sasha, an operative team leader, just lost her jacker and the rest of her crew in a botched operation. She can’t find a crew without a new jacker, and Elena needs a place to hide, STAT. AxysGen has a hit out on Sasha, too. If any of them are going to survive, they need to be deleted from AxysGen’s databases. And they can’t do that without a jacker. Or Sasha’s crew.
Elena and Sasha must work together to find Sasha’s crew and prevent AxysGen from finding Elena. The deeper they get into the the virtual world, however, the more layers of AxysGen peel away and the more Sasha’s past, including her ex-girlfriend, come back to haunt them.
LUCKY 7 is a fast paced dystopian sci-fi novel that starts with action on page one and does not let up. Unfortunately the action comes at the steep cost of stakes and character buy-in, and the first third of the book is entirely skimmable. The gems of attraction between Sasha and Elena are well done, but do little to progress the narrative forward. Elena’s character is poorly developed, as is her motivation, and Sasha’s ice queen attitude leaves her functionally emotionless.
The book takes a hard right turn at the one third point, with a steamy shower sex scene that breaks through our ice queen’s exterior and gives the reader some much needed emotional interplay. There’s consensual power play here, too, and it is hot as fuck. The book is worth buying for the sex scenes alone (there are three!).
But something in me wants to fight. To push back against her dominance, to show her I’m not just some warm body she can bruise because she hates me. I need her to fuck me, but she doesn’t get to unless I fuck her back.
Somehow, I know I’ll never tire of bringing her over the edge. “Come for me,” I growl into the dip of her collarbone, close enough for her to feel my lips on her skin. “I want you to come for me.”
Halfway through the book changes POVs from Elena to Sasha, and it is at this point that the narrative takes off. Sasha’s POV is rich and complex, and the reader cannot help but be fascinated as she learns about her forgotten past, her relationship with her ex, Megan, and the secrets behind the ship’s AI. With an emotional hook, the storyline and plot pack a punch. The stakes raise, the crew becomes more three-dimensional. You care about Sasha. You root for Sasha. Sasha is the ideal unreliable narrator.
The A plot, of Elena running from the evil corporation, takes a quick backseat to the B plot of Sasha’s origins and the motivations of Megan. The B plot is by far the stronger of the two. Megan is the perfect villain–delightfully self absorbed with just enough humanity to make her relatable. The clone situation is excellent, the AI a delight, and Sasha, again, steals the show.
Another bonus: the representation in the book is phenomenal. Elena is Mexican (with brown skin), Sasha is black, and the richness of Elena’s background comes through in so many fantastic phrases and snippets of history. There is no white default in this book-white people are described via skin tone upon first introduction as much as the numerous people of color.
“If anyone tries to speak to you, let me do the talking,” Rami mutters from the corner of their mouth. “Just give them a white people smile.”
“The close-lipped ‘I acknowledged you, now please go away’ gringo smile?”
The trans rep, in particular, really struck a chord with me. One of the crew is trans, but it is the exploration of Sasha’s gender identity that was the most compelling. It is rare to see a true exploration of the nonbinary experience in queer fiction. So much is either a nonbinary person just being a person and having adventures, or being a side character. Sasha’s explanation of her gender, and Elena’s intuitive understanding, cemented their relationship as one of the best I’ve read in lesbian fiction. In a culture where the butch identity was long used as a dumping ground for both gender and gender identity, having one branch explored at length, and with deep sensitivity, was absolutely amazing.
I know from her smile that she’s joking, but my confidence falters. I know what Elena wants, but I’m not sure I’ll be ante to give it to her. I’ve got baggage around sex, around trust, around my body, and although I feel good in my skin tonight, I can’t guarantee she’ll get the results she wants, no matter how hard she tries.
My face heats up. I’ve tried thinking about it that way sometimes, more often before I bought my first prosthetic. Once in a while, it works. Usually it doesn’t. There are aspects of womanhood I still connect and identify with, but my parents aren’t one of them. And even thought I know all too well that body parts don’t make a woman, being touched that way feels…vulnerable. In a good way, on some occasions, but more often in a not-good way.
Once my hands are dry, I consider what to do about my swimsuit. The decision to pull down my trunks is an easy one, but my top is more difficult. It bares my midriff, but keeps my chest fairly flat. The look of hunger that takes over Elena’s face is enough to tempt me out of it. Her dark eyes have zeroed in as I pull it off, and her tongue leaves a glistening line on her lips as she wets them. I’m naked, but thanks to her admiration, I don’t feel overexposed.
It’s a feeling of freedom, of knowing I can fly without the fear of falling. It has everything to do with the face that it’s Elena between my legs.
She’s memorized more of me in a few weeks than other people have bothered to learn in years, and I actually feel comfortable enough to teach her. It’s different. Powerful. A little scary. Bit it’s also all kinds of good, and I know I’d be a fool to give it up. I’m not even sure I can.
You can find your own curvy hacker in paperback here and ebook here. Consider supporting an independent bookstore by buying it here.
Double bonus: this scene
“You blew up the front door,” Rami yells back, taking the steps two at a time.
“Because I love you,” Cherry hollers. “Even though you left me in Brazil!”
“How do you run so fast in heels?” I gasp as I stagger down the front steps. I don’t know how Sasha finds all these magical bitches who can run ops in perfect makeup and designer shoes, but if I wasn’t terrified of dying, I’d be jealous.
And the best description of this particular flavor of bisexuality to date:
“Not my type, kid. I like pretty boys with long eyelashes and girls who look like they could step on my windpipe with their jackboot and make me thank them for it.”