Author: Lyn Gala
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 5 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Sometimes the fiercest battle a man faces is against himself.
In the hidden alleyways of New York City, George “Tank” Tankersley defeated what he believed were demons. But the victory cost too much. Tank joined the Army in the hope of outrunning the guilt haunting him—only to stumble into a vast and deadly conspiracy, the enemies he’d hoped to never encounter again, and the arms of the brilliant, eccentric scientist tasked with saving humanity.
In a world where the line between dark magic and alien science is thin, Dr. Lev Underwood must reverse engineer recovered alien technology to give humans a fighting chance against the extraterrestrial beings who consider Earth nothing more than a petri dish. His old friend, Colonel Clyde Aldrich, wants to protect Lev from entanglement with the scarred and emotionally volatile young soldier, but Lev cannot help the pull he feels toward Tank. Still, his first loyalty is to the secret government program, and love might have to take a back seat to protecting the world. But if he can find a way, Lev wants both.
Review: George “Tank” Tankersley is just going to do his thing in the Army. Unfortunately, privates in the Army don’t really get to make decisions for themselves. Tank’s life is way beyond his control. Suddenly, Tank finds himself in a relationship with Lev Underwood. Surprise! He’s also living in an alien spaceship. The crazy part is Tank has seen all this stuff before. Tank’s loyalties are torn and Clyde notices. Clyde is Lev’s best friend and Tank’s commanding officer. He can tell Tank is more than the unassuming private he’s pretending to be, he just can’t really figure out how he’s different and if it’s an evil different or simply a… different different. It’s probably safe to say neither Clyde nor Tank expected things to play out as they did.
What if an author leaned into the instalove trope so hard and so far the romance was no longer the most important relationship developed? Tank and Lev fall in love and become a couple. Whatever. This book is about Lev and Clyde being best friends and Clyde becoming the supportive male authority figure Tank never had. Clyde gets to see his best friend be happy and help a kid grow up hopefully a little less screwed up. So yeah, this was a romance between Tank and Lev, but this book was more a showcase of types of male relationships. Relationships that feel surprisingly healthy in spite of the circumstances.
Everyone in the book has some level of PTSD. Again, like the romance, I didn’t feel that was really the point. Clyde, Tank, and even John are going to find themselves in the middle of whatever fight is in their vicinity. Does it mess them up? Yes! Will they do it anyway? Yes. Whether we like it or not the military is a great place for guys who are driven to serve society in this way. This book is neither a glorification of heroes at the expense of reality nor a sad tale of people ruined and lives cut short. Military service and the lifelong effects from it aren’t black and white subjects. This book presents a thorny situation and doesn’t pretend to solve it. Tank was in the fight long before he joined the military. In the military he was still in the fight, but he had a safety net.
Tank and his friends were in the middle of a war while in high school. I cannot say how much I appreciate the subject came up in this book that there were adults who should have been stepping in. This is an issue for me in a lot of YA fantasy fiction. Kids are saving the universe when there are better qualified people whose responsibility it is to take care of the kids who are in mortal danger. You know, people who don’t have to borrow mom’s car to get to the showdown between good and evil. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was cool and all, but child soldiers shouldn’t exist. Kids don’t need to carry that burden.
I suppose now that I’ve rambled I should say I really loved this book. I think Lyn Gala is incredibly good at posing questions then leaving the reader to wrestle with them. As much as I love reading to be entertained I need to think about a book to feel passionately. And there was just so much here for me to feel passionately about. I adored Clyde as he struggled with allowing access to Lev. Watching Tank realize he wasn’t alone was heartbreaking. John’s love of musicals made me laugh out loud. So yeah, this book is instalove between a couple of guys with PTSD, one of whom saved the world from some demons when he was a teenager. But it’s so much more than that. The best books are always so much more than they appear.