Newell has created a fascinating and sensual matriarchal sea world.
Genetic piracy on the Fenria high seas leads to an accidental soulmate connection in Lizzie Newell’s science fiction romp, The Fisherman and the Sperm Thief. Inventive world-building and distinctive language set this erotically charged adventure apart in its genre.
When Teakh, a low-ranking fisherman who relies upon the charity of his clan, is approached by three nubile young ladies for an anonymous sexual encounter, he cannot believe his luck. Particularly in a world where sex happens mostly at a woman’s whim, and generally only with procreation in mind, the tides had not seemed at all in his favor. But Teakh learns from his manipulative aunt Dyse that he may be in higher demand than he supposed: incidental testing has exposed him as a descendant of the Noah Eugenics Project’s men, bred for their loyalty and honor.
Teakh soon finds himself training to be a stud, his services set to be sold to those looking to have children with his genetic makeup. He’s a reluctant trainee, despite the promise of guaranteed, guiltless promiscuity: he finds that he has fallen for one of the women from his first sexual encounter, and is convinced that he can function for her and her alone. With his sidekick drone Gull as help, he seeks out this woman—an artist he knows only as “Angel,” so dubbed for her tattoo—certain that his efforts will be rewarded with love and fidelity.
The world Newell has imagined is a fascinating one. Fenria is matriarchal, with ocean-based economies and a language that continually references the sea. This unique language plays heavily into the text, and is both charming and centering: “sink her!” and “walrus-headed” serve in the place of expletives, while “tide carry you” is a most solemn and respectful send-off.
Lest anyone mistake this for a mild text, though, it should be noted that such genteel ocean references accompany vivid and occasionally explicit sexual scenes. In a world where so much depends on organized copulation, it should be no surprise that encounters on Fenria are heady. When Teakh and Angel do get together—and when Teakh is acting as a stud—the text is most nearly a work of erotica. Newell writes these scenes well, and the appendix suggests that coming Fenria novels will continue their themes, with Teakh’s sister Annon starring in his place.
Sperm Thief does contain an anachronism or two, including a reference to Santa Claus, awkward since the religious system on Fenria is decidedly not Christian, and Earth’s mythologies have little pull. The religious system itself could be clarified more. References are made to the “Great Prophet Catherine Smith,” and “Danna” is used where “God” otherwise might be, but these mythologies are not fleshed out. From time to time, the dialogue between Angel and Teakh gets a bit too grandiose (“Let me be your love slave,” Teakh begs), though their exchanges are mostly inventive and convincing.
Still, the world of The Fisherman and the Sperm Thief is an enjoyable one to enter, its characters lively and its situations engrossing. With her particular blend of eroticism and science fiction, Newell is certain to generate interest in follow-up Fenria volumes.
Michelle Anne Schingler
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