Genre: Sci-Fi, Romance
LGBTQ+ Category: Gay
About The Book
Stationmaster and exiled aristocrat Albert St. John Rembrandt—Bertie to his friends—is in love with someone he’s always believed he can’t have, and finding out the hard way that some Tolari are as poisonous as their planet is only the beginning of his troubles. A ship has gone missing. His station is in crisis. Bertie must somehow recover his health and manage the disaster while trying to decide whether to accept genetic modification in order to be with the man he loves.
And no Rembrandt has ever taken a gen mod.
After finishing book two of R.J. Theodore’s “Peridot Shift,” I was in the mood for something a bit more on the strictly sci-fi side. I picked up a book we ran a tour for a few months back – Rembrandt’s Station by Christie Meierz, and I’m glad I did.
It’s set in the author’s “Tolari Space” universe. The Tolari are an almost mystical, long-lived race of humans who split off from the Terran line when some humans were kidnapped and taken to Tolar some six thousand years ago. Reading this book, it’s clear that there’s a lot of history here that’s covered in earlier books, but the author does a great job in filling in the blanks as we go, and since this is a self-contained story, I had no trouble picking this up and diving right in.
Our main protagonist, Lord Albert Rembrandt, or “Bertie” to his friends, was thrown out of his family (and human space) for refusing to go along with a loveless marriage to a straight man to cement an alliance for his family. His father has never forgiven him, and Bertie fled to Tolar, helping to open up trade relations with the Tolari. There he met The Monral, the head of the city-state of Monralar. Such leaders give up their name when they come to power, and go instead by a shortened version of the name of their fiefdom.
Bertie, as the stationmaster for the Tolar Trade Station, ferries three strangers down to the surface, only to discover that they are members of the much-despised rival Johnson family. The Rembrandts have sworn to never allow genetic modification in their family line, while the Johnsons have embraced it, and this sets up much of the conflict to come.
It also poses an immediate problem for Bertie, as he’s not-so-secretly in love with The Monral, and he suspects the man shares his infatuation. But on a planet which is high in heavy metals, he can never be with the Monral, which becomes apparent when he almost dies from heavy metal poisoning after the first time he and The Monral have sex, and the resulting nerve damage weakens him. There’s an easy fix – Bertie can take the Blessing – a Tolari gene mod that will adapt him to life on Tolar. But he knows if he takes it, his father will never speak to him again.
I loved the characters, especially Bertie and the Monral, and appreciated that the Tolari prince is described several times as average looking. I also liked that the author never conveniently forgets Bertie’s injury and resulting weakness.
There are many strong female characters here too, including Johnson family member Laura, who has taken the Blessing and married a local. She’s the sister to two of the three humans who have recently arrived on Tolar, and harbors powerful secrets of her own.
The plot moves well, with one arc tracing the actions and reactions to the Johnson family shenanigans on Tolar and elsewhere, and the other following Bertie and The Monral’s bumpy relationship as Bertie tries to reconcile his own past with his demanding family and his own insistence to never take the Blessing, even when it might save his life. He gets backed into a corner a few times, and it’s to Meier’s credit that she doesn’t let him take the easy way out.
I had just two minor gripes with the book. One is that so many of the human names – Albert, Thomas, Laura, Marianne, Steven – wouldn’t appear out of place at a dinner part in 2023, or 1993. When a story takes place so far in the future, I expect a little more exoticness in the character names. Then again, some of our own names are more than two thousand years old. The other has to do with the worldbuilding. It’s stellar overall, especially in the depiction of Tolari society, but I wished for a few more sensory details throughout the book about the world itself to really get me into the alienness of the place.
But as I said, these are minor complaints. Neither kept me from enjoying immensely the scope of the book and its characters, and the friction between the two races of humans. It reminded me a bit of Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell, but this is the superior book in terms of the amazing and fascinating semi-alien society Meierz has constructed.
A tightly plotted, well-written sci-fi tale with an extremely satisfying slow-burn MM romance at its core. Well worth the read.