Rogue Wolf by Elliot Cooper
Published by: Self-published
Genre: Science fiction/queer romance
Reviewed by: Edwin
What to Expect: Short, sharp, entertaining caper with a good romance and some interesting sci fi ideas.
Plot: Exiled from his home planet for loving an enemy, Vince turned to space piracy aboard the Cygnus. Disguised as a human thanks to his species’ shifting abilities, Vince feels secure. But he’s not safe from memories of his murdered lifemate—or from a growing attraction to Trent Rolston, the ship’s captain, he feels honor bound to ignore.
Trent, though, is determined to prove to Vince there’s nothing wrong with becoming more than friends. But Vince is surprised by his species’ mating call, despite being deep in space and far from home.
Just as their relationship begins to evolve, the Cygnus comes under attack from hunters determined to destroy Vince and his chosen family.
(Note: this title previously published under another pseudonym. This version has been heavily updated and includes 5k additional words plus a brand new ending!)
I’d read and enjoyed a number of Elliott Cooper’s novelettes and novellas before (particularly Junk Mage), and was eager to see if Rogue Wolf would continue his enviable record of quality shorter fiction. I’m pleased to confirm that it does. Rogue Wolf is a fun and breezy SF story which somehow weaves together seemingly disparate elements such as werewolves, space pirates, and psychic aliens into a coherent whole.
The two lead characters are Trent, the pirate captain of the space ship Cygnus, and Vince, the ship’s mechanic-cum-muscle. Vince is also a werewolf (“Fenrite” in the book’s terminology), exiled from werewolf planet because his (now dead) mate was from an enemy clan. Interestingly, the exile had nothing to do with the fact that his mate was male. “First evar gay werewolf deals with homophobia” has essentially become a cliché in m/m shifter writing, and Cooper avoids this trap. Indeed, homosexuality appears to be completely normalised in the book’s world, and none of the book’s action is driven by homophobia. I enjoy m/m books where homophobia isn’t a driver – certainly dealing with prejudice is part of many important queer narratives, but it doesn’t have to be the focus of all of them, particularly ones set in the far future and featuring aliens!
Vince and Trent have clearly been attracted to each other for some time, but Vince resists acting on it because once Fenrites mate, they mate for life, and he doesn’t want to put anything that heavy on Trent (and it didn’t work out too well for him the last time he tried it, either). This will-they-or-won’t-they is complicated by an attack from some of Fenrite pirates, which eventually leads the Cygnus back to Vince’s planet for a long overdue confrontation with his past.
My favourite element of the story is probably the crew of the Cygnus. It’s a well-executed example of found family: Vince, Trent, and the other members of the crew (which includes two really interesting psychic aliens) support each other in ways none of them were able to rely on from their blood families. It’s such an important part of queer community and the queer experience, I’m always pleased to see it (metaphorically or otherwise) in fiction.
All in all, Rogue Wolf has all the same strengths I’ve noticed in Cooper’s previous work, but also some of the same weaknesses. It’s a good, fun idea, executed without any fuss in really well-crafted (though not flashy) prose. And it’s perfect if you want something you can read in an hour. But it also feels in places like an excerpt from a longer work rather than a standalone piece. The pace is occasionally a bit rushed, and it both starts and finishes rather abruptly. At one level that speaks to the quality of the work – it really does leave me wanting more – but at another it suggests that there’s maybe a bit much crammed in to a small space. This is a minor quibble, though, and overall I very much enjoyed my time with Vince, Trent, and the crew of the Cygnus.
What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: This is a novella, and as such lacks a bit of backstory and ends rather abruptly. If you need buildup and dénouement, this might not work for you.
What you will love: Quick, fun, creative sci fi romance that you don’t have to wait around for. Plus: werewolf pirates in space (and also knot sex)!
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.