Reviewed by Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
This is book one of a series called Aces High, Jokers Wild. I was anxious about this one right from the start. I’m not really a dystopian fan (and yet, I’ve really loved some of those). Also, with the author’s “alert” about the romance arc in the story, I gulped. The plot centers on a gay romance, in which one of the couple is a trans man. How would Tearmann handle this? How would the characters be presented for a reader like me, who has come a long way, but maybe still struggles?
What is most remarkable about this story is the gentle skill that the author brings to their handling of that key question for me (and, presumably, for others). The author helps us open our minds and hearts, to embrace unfamiliarity. Tearmann makes us care about all the characters, and that makes their job all the easier.
Aiden Headly is a young officer in the Democratic State Force, which has for the last sixty years fought against the United Corporations of America. We are in an America divided into heavily-guarded, high-tech corporate zones known as the Grid, and Force-controlled military installations known as the Dust. We are in a world where climate change and political deadlock have resulted in a nation that is isolated, only engaged with the rest of the world because of its technological and medical power; a world eerily recognizable to the modern reader.
Aiden’s task – a job for which he was specifically selected and trained – is to resurrect a failing Dust base known as the Wildcards. What he sees is a hardscrabble group of misfits whose behavior is undisciplined and dysfunctional. What he soon understands is that this is a family, devastated by the loss of their beloved leader. Somehow, Aiden has to become their new commander, to pick up the pieces and put them together again, all the while hiding who he really is from all of them.