Time for something new today on Binge on Books! Sara Beth is here to tell us about some great underread reads in her new column, Binge Worthy Books. First up: The Emperor’s New Clothes: An Interstellar Heist, by Aldous Mercer:
Published by: Self pub
Genre: Science Fiction, M/M Romance
Order at: Amazon
Reviewed by: Sara Beth
What to Expect: An extremely lovable secret agent on a dual mission to satisfy his emperor’s demands while chasing his heart, encountering all manner of entertaining things along the way, from sentient pet menageries, to wildly inventive tech, and **gasp** zombies.
Plot: An intrepid secret agent…
Agent Royce Ree was once the best covert intelligence operative in the Empire. But all he’s been able to accomplish lately is screw-up after screw-up. Now, the Emperor has assigned the once-great agent a mission: Royce needs to pull off the biggest heist the Universe has ever seen, or it’s bye-bye cushy government job, hello cleaning toilets in a dive-bar on Baga-V.
A ludicrous mission…
With the Empire poised on the edge of chaos, everything depends on Royce’s ability to steal another civilization’s impeccable sense of style. To succeed, he needs help from the last person he’d ever ask–his aristocratic ex-husband.
One last chance…
Along with his career and the Emperor’s dignity, Royce is about to get a chance to save a love he thought he’d lost forever…
“The Empire has survived wars, supernovae, democracy, and the collapse of a neighborhood universe.
Let us hope it survives the good intentions of Agent Royce Ree.”
– Author unknown (personal communication to the Emperor).
Review: This book is amazing. I read it twice, in a very short amount of time, and enjoyed every single second of the experience. The style Mercer employs almost renders the re-read mandatory, and I have rarely been so happy to submit to a book’s demands. This story is layered, and once you’ve experienced that ‘a-ha!’ moment at its conclusion, you’ll be just as driven as I was to go back and find the nuggets you missed the first time around, cackling maniacally, at the ingenious and often hilarious way Mercer pulled this tale together.
What worked for me the most wasn’t even the nifty plot, though I do love a new play on old fairy tales. It wasn’t just the wildly inventive tech the author conceptualizes, but I do admire that a great deal. And okay, fine, anything involving psychic Gorillas and zombie viruses is going to hold my attention.
What really held me riveted, what I want more of, Mr. Aldous, and soon, is the rich characterization of our daring Agent Royce Ree and his equally intrepid ex-husband, Les’Anther Dai-Sarn. The tension between these two, which is a reflection of their shared past as well as their uncertain future, is crafted masterfully. Their dialogue is witty and smart. At times, it is also subtly heartbreaking to read. The author makes it clear that while Ree might be the only man in the position to save Les, both literally and metaphorically, it’s true that Les is the only man capable of breaking Ree. And, of course, vice versa.
This isn’t a typical romance, but it’s certainly a story that is driven by the yearning, regret and hope experienced by both of its main characters in relation to one another. Happily, it’s not dragged down by the angst that lies between them. If anything, the genius of our MCs torment is that it is cleverly layered beneath other ridiculously entertaining parts of the story. Which brings us back to psychic Gorillas and naked Emperors.
This is one book that I certainly can’t believe isn’t more widely read by folks who love wonderfully rendered sci-fi imbibed with intriguing romance and a ton of wit. I loved it, and I am going to be screaming unto the end of time “why aren’t more people reading this?!”
What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: What worked really well for me probably won’t work for some readers: the short chapters and over all layout of the story might pull readers who are used to a more linear plot in too many different directions. Also, as a self-pub, there are some typos that caught my eye, and I’m sure others will note these, but the story is so good, I didn’t care as much as I normally would.
What you will love: The dynamic between Ree and Les, as well as their antics as they navigate tricky interactions with psychic animals, a crazy warlord, a disenfranchised princess, and eventually, some pretty important zombies.