Bonnie Milani is one of my favorite indie authors. She is the author of Home World, a science fiction novel that absolutely blew me away and solidified Milani as one of my favorite authors to watch. Cherry Pickers & Liquid Gambit are two short stories, one rising from the species who inhabited the universe in Home World. Theoretically, the other short story in the anthology could also be of that same universe. CreateSpace | December, 2016 | Paperback | 152 pp
In Liquid Gambit the lupans are back, genetically engineered humans with wolf-like qualities such as fangs, talons, and a keen sense of smell. But instead of taking place on Home World (Earth), this story takes place on the Bogue Dast Station, a space station designated as a neutral zone in times of war. Both humans and lupans inhabit this station, a central meeting area for ship repairs, docking, shipping, and often a haven for slave traders.
Rick is a lupan who operates a seedy dive called Rick’s Bar, catering to his kind with stiff drinks and rough talk. He’s also a wanted lupan in several areas of the universe as a known killer. And when he’s not serving drinks, he works as a vigilante taking out slave traders while helping those slaves achieve freedom. At Bogue Dast, he’s free to roam. Since it’s a neutral station, no one can pick him up on warrants. Just as he is free, so are the slave traders. He’s not supposed to be killing them. Bayliss, a human security officer on the station, only needs proof that Rick is the one behind the missing and murdered slave traders.
When a strange woman who seems vaguely familiar walks into his bar, his past and current private activities rush out into the open. She knows all about Rick, and that’s precisely why she showed up. She has one more slave for him to rescue.
This story takes place on Sisyphus Penal Colony Number One, a prison camp for women on another planet. Nikki is the daughter of the colony’s director and she desperately wants to be recognized as a woman to obtain her first gun. But to become a woman, she needs a man. Unfortunately, there are no men on the planet, only female humans and a host of sentient male insect creatures. The insects provide the silk and in a symbiotic relationship, the human prisoners take care of the insects and prepare the silk for shipment across the universe.
It’s a dangerous world where everything can kill you and it’s mandatory to stay within boundaries designating the safe zones. So when Nikki spots a male human visitor from one of the transport vessels leaving the border, it’s up to her to save the young man and her only chance at becoming a woman. Unfortunately, a rival mother and daughter team have more nefarious plans.
Cherry Pickers & Liquid Gambit are two short scifi stories displaying the brilliant creativity and masterful storytelling of Bonnie Milani. Both stories are near impossible to put down. They’re short, so you know you can finish it easily but when you get involved in the main story lines, you know there is no way possible to put them down. It becomes a read-in-one-sitting book, each story completely engulfing the reader in a new world with must-feel suspense. Short and powerful with stars aligning for this review.