Overall: Gay scifi about the underdogs and tech workers caught my eye immediately. The concepts in these stories were intriguing, and the characters were interesting, but I found that many of the stories dragged after a while.
(3.5/5) The Prince and the Programmer: Technician and culinary genius Jasno is called to assist unfriendly Prince Darex, ends up kidnapped in his place, and so falls into the complicated relationship between Darex and Prince Tergus.
This one was fun. The characters were vivid and there was lots of minor worldbuilding in the descriptions of food-servos and zero-g wrestling. The story went on longer than I expected it to, but it was all entertaining and full of surprises.
(5/5) About a Bot: This was probably my favorite. Tahir is a minor technician on a spaceship, but he’s made a name for himself refurbishing old-model robots into friendly ‘pets’. On the day he’s supposed to be interviewed by his school crush, now a reporter, the ship is attacked, and he ends up facing down a terrifying alien invader with the hope of understanding him. Tahir’s anxiety really rang true. I loved seeing non-human characters too, especially his robots and the Lharaz soldier.
(3/5) The Aurora Conspiracy: This one didn’t interest me as much, but the intrigues involved in the story of a mining station worker accused of sabotaging the company, paced alongside his reunion with the lover he thought gone after a horrific accident that left him with a prosthetic leg, will certainly gain fans.
(4/5) Flight Risk: Most of the Gryphons, the border scouts fighting rebels over water resources, treat their mechanics like dirt. Except for Marco. But Kiel isn’t ready to trust him right away, and the internal politics aren’t the only thing going on in this war. The dynamics in this story were really good: the Gryphons bully Kiel, who could report it, but doesn’t. Marco often isn’t listened to when he needs to be, but he still hides the fact that he comes from a powerful family. I loved the references to the fact that many of the mechanics are deaf and use sign language.
(3.5/5) Survival: Valentin is one of the workers in charge of the plant growth for a colony ship. But partway through the journey, he’s woken from cryosleep when the forest grows out of control. Having read the companion story Renewal, all of the buildup here felt a little slow, but I did like the descriptions of ship life. The last three chapters were more exciting and very much worth the wait.