Song Of The Navigator – Astrid Amara
Worst Possible Birthday: Being sold into slavery by none other than your lover.
Tover Duke’s rare ability to move anything instantly across light-years of space makes him a powerful, valuable asset to the Harmony Corporation, and a rock star among the people of the colonies. His life is luxurious. Safe. Routine.
He has his pick of casual hookups passing through Dadelus-Kaku Station. His one brush with danger of any kind—the only bright spot in his otherwise boring life—is Cruz Arcadio, a dark-haired, hard-bodied engineer whose physical prowess hints he’s something much more.
When a terrorist abducts Tover, hurling him into a world of torture, exploitation and betrayal, it’s with shattering disbelief that he realizes his kidnapper is none other than Cruz. As Tover struggles to find the courage to escape his bondage, he begins to understand the only way to free his body, his mind—and his heart—is to trust the one man who showed him that everything about his once-perfect life was a lie.
Warning: This story contains descriptions of extreme violence and assault. It also contains graphic sexual depictions. It also has a lot of birds. And pirate movies from the future. And romance.
Tover Duke loves four things: food, soccer, birds and fucking.
Tover is a navigator, one of only 42 improvisional navigators, someone with the ability to instantaneously transport anything to any part of the known and unknown universe using orbifolds he can create through vibrations in his vocal chords. He is a cherished celebrity, a demigod even to himself, whose every whim was catered to by his company, Harmony. That includes his own personal aviary because Tover is a hardcore bird otaku.
At his birthday celebration, he was held hostage by Cruz Arcadio, a Harmony engineer he had occasional hook ups with and who he had a serious crush on. He was then sold by the Pulmon Verde, terrorist soldiers from Carida, to pirates in exchange for data. His world was turned up side down. Please heed the trigger warnings because it was nasty.
I love this navigator world Astrid Amara created. The physics behind the orbitals is solid and interesting, though it would have been more so had I had some knowledge of string theory. Nonetheless, I was amazed with Tover’s teleportation powers. Like any realistically rendered superpower, it has its limitations. This being it takes up a LOT of energy which means he has to eat a lot too. At one point, it left Tover severely emaciated after jumping from Dadelus-Kaku to Carida to save Cruz. It didn’t stop him from doing it again.
I love Tover! Like every navigator, he was a diva who had questionable rock star wardrobe (snake skin pants, really?). He may or may not have been an asshole at some point in his career, but the torture in the pirate ship and the eye-opening truths he learned in Carida changed him completely.
The torture he suffered was brutal! My heart went out to him. It resulted in paralyzing PTSD. It was so bad he lost the ability to create orbifolds, the only thing he’s good at. It wasn’t just the pirates. Tover also learned the reality of his existence as a navigator. His was a story of what it means to be truly free. It was one of the most moving and satisfying character progressions I’ve ever read.
Song of the Navigator is also story of corporate exploitation. The carbon-dioxide breathing people of Carida is fighting against the terraforming of their planet by Harmony. Terraforming Carida had very disastrous consequences. Cruz is a soldier of the Pulmon Verde, a military group working to bring down the corporation. He was working undercover. He was willing to do anything for their cause.
I wanted to hate the poker-faced Cruz for doing what he did to Tover. It was a shitty, shitty thing to do. But when he showed Tover what was at stake, he convinced me it was worth it. He’s also fiercely proud of Tover’s ability and very protective of Tover’s freedom. It was his little acts of affection that made me believe he genuinely feels for the navigator.
Tover was harder to convinced. Couldn’t blame the guy (and I wouldn’t have been impressed had he gave in easily. Yes, let Cruz grovel for a bit.). He refused to see that Harmony was using him. At the end, it was the birds that finally did it. And because Tover always had to be the hero, he did what he did best and gave a grand middle finger salute to his company. Attaboy!
“You didn’t react to being shot. You don’t feel anything at all, do you?” Tover hated the hurt in his voice.
“I feel everything.” Cruz stepped toward him. He said nothing more. But his eyes,they were warm now, dark and dilated. He moved so close he could pin Tover to the wall if he wanted to.
“You should show it,” Tover suggested.
And for a moment, Cruz’s visage broke. His eyes trembled and a glitter of moisture filled his eyes.
The story was a study in contrasts. Tover was an adored rockstar. Suddenly, he was a pirate slave. Then he was a beloved guest only to end up where he started. Even the settings were strikingly different, from the a highly urbanized space station, to an old pirate ship to a verdant planet. These 180-degree turns only served to heighten the gut-wrenching, emotional whiplashes I felt when reading the book.
It was a tale as old as time. Betrayal. Slavery in its many forms. Huge corporation vs the minority. Natural resources threatened by bland suburban development. Even in the far future, these are still relevant and at a galactic scale. Tover, Cruz and the Pulmon Verde made major strides in saving Carida. I had a feeling they still have a few ways to go. It’s only an HFN ending but at least Tover will not be strapped to a machine against his will ever again. He has his birds and his games and all the tamales he can eat and he and Cruz can go at it everyday.
Because Tover Duke loves five things.
Astrid Amara books here
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away