The Glamour Thieves by Don Allmon
Published by: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Queer SF/Fantasy
Reviewed by: Edwin
What to Expect: A fast-paced, well-written SF/Fantasy heist story, packed with action and sex.
Check out Don Allmon’s guest post “One Handed Writing” to learn all about what drove him to write The Glamour Thieves. Hint: it’s not what you think it is.
Plot: JT is an orc on the way up. He’s got his own boutique robotics shop, high-end clientele, and deep-pocketed investors. He’s even mentoring an orc teen who reminds him a bit too much of himself back in the day.
Then Austin shows up, and the elf’s got the same hard body and silver tongue as he did two years ago when they used to be friends and might have been more. He’s also got a stolen car to bribe JT to saying yes to one last scheme: stealing the virtual intelligence called Blue Unicorn.
Soon JT’s up to his tusks in trouble, and it ain’t just zombies and Chinese triads threatening to tear his new life apart. Austin wants a second chance with JT—this time as more than just a friend—and even the Blue Unicorn is trying to play matchmaker.
Review: Shadowrun, for those who don’t know, is an RPG world developed in the late 1980s which combines cyberpunk with fantasy. Orcs with lasers, pixies with cybernetic implants, and the like. It’s an enormously fun concept that, outside of Shadowrun itself and Warhammer 40k, has been puzzlingly neglected (the last series outside of those two shared worlds I can remember doing this sort of thing well is Justina Robson’s excellent Quantum Gravity). I’m pleased to report that newcomer Don Allmon has done an outrageously good job of deploying those elements in The Glamour Thieves.
The two leads are JT, an orc car thief turned mechanic, and Austin, and elvish con man/thief. It is very clear from the first page that the two have History with a capital H, but the exact nature of that history is not something we find out until much later in the book, and even then only partially. It’s an interesting storytelling technique: the heist plot which drives the action and the romantic thread which drives the character tension between JT and Austin are both very much tied in that backstory, and neither is ever fully contextualised. This worked to make the madcap rush of the plot seem even more like a headlong dive into the unknown. I found this very effective, but can see others would be irritated by the lack of clear direction in the plot (I should add that I’m sure Allmon has control of his plot at all times, but the reader does not always have access to the same information). This stylistic adventure is allied with a flashy if deliberately rough prose style that I suspect will quickly become instantly identifiable with Allmon.
We quickly go from JT and Austin meeting again for the first time in 2 years to JT being pushed into helping Austin with a heist. They end up roping in a red headed hacker, Buzz, and a Wizard, Victor. The heist, of course, goes badly, with heavily armed Triads, necromancers, and advanced AIs all coming to the party. The action scenes make great use of the worldbuilding, with Austin using his elvish glamour to warp enemies’ emotions, JT using his cybernetic connections to command an army of drones (and, uh, a pickup truck), Buzz hacking man and machine alike, and Victor using the magic powers inherent in his frankly terrifying metal eyeballs. These scenes are creative, but most importantly, they’re also fun.
Points, too, for a good cast of side characters. Buzz and Victor are intriguing, and I really hope we see more from JT’s apprentice, Dante, who seems like she has some interesting stories of her own to tell. Even the villains mentioned above are developed enough to be more than cardboard cutout antagonists. Allmon also has a real talent for outright filthy sex scenes. Sweat and jizz and biting and glamour and sex involving cybernetic cars. It’s smut but it’s not just smut: in their own rough hewn way, the sex scenes in the Glamour Thieves are evocative, and reveal quite a lot about the characters of those with their clothes off. I should also note that both JT and Austin have sex with other people multiple times in the book before they turn to each other. This isn’t a romance, at least not yet, though I understand Austin and JT’s story is going to continue in Book 3 of the Blue Unicorn series (Book 2 is Buzz’s book), and I cannot wait to see where they end up. Highly recommended.
What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: If you’re looking for a romance, you won’t find it here. If you need to have all the information to enjoy what’s going on, the somewhat in media res approach might annoy you.
What you will love: Explosive prose, dirty orc sex, kinetic action scenes: basically the most fun, most gay Shadowrun campaign ever run, in novel form.
Edwin gets grumpy if his SF/F reading doesn’t feature happy queer main characters. Aside from that, he reads and writes for a living (though not fiction), so of course his hobby is reading, and now writing about what he reads. Why do anything else? Connect with Edwin on Twitter.