Book Review: On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett

The time and place

Centax, a space colony in our future.

The suspension of disbelief

Space travel exists. Long ago, people fled Earth after nuclear war, scattering its treasures and museum pieces everywhere. There are several humanoid races around, perhaps all descended from us. The Centaxians put cybernetic implants in all of their citizens to make them better/faster/stronger, but more implants tend to deaden emotions.

The quick summary

The head of government on Centax, Axton Saros, is recovering from a coup attempt and traumatized from his torture and imprisonment. Centax Security officer Xenia Alexander is sent with him to recover an Old Earth artifact, the Codex da Vinci, so the national museumq can open on schedule. Axton has figured out that Xenia does have emotions and comforted him when he was in a bad way. She’s caring and protective to him, loyal to his brother (Xenia is Axton’s brother’s second in command at CenSec), good at her job, easy on his eyes, and can move “like liquid lightning” or electrocute someone in melee combat. That’s everything Axton wants from a partner, so he decides to make the most of the mission. Xenia has her reservations, though, because although she would totally tap that delicious and amazing-smelling man, she believes herself ill-suited to his life. It also wouldn’t do for people to discover she’s not the perfect emotionless Centaxian Security cyborg. How do the two of them recover the artifact and connect with each other on a dangerous retrieval job?

My squees

Lady cyborgs are a big reading inducement for me. They make me think of how we can extend our bodies’ capabilities. There is a convention in heterosexual romance stories where the male lead is presented as ‘other’ to the female lead in society: alien, werewolf, vampire, cyborg, super spy. In On a Cyborg Planet, everyone’s modded, but Xenia exceptionally so. People who are exceptional, ‘other,’ or different can feel uncomfortable in most surroundings and like interacting with the average person is foreign and difficult. Speaking directly is often a liability when interacting with people. Overcoming these difficulties to forge human relationships is a subject I find fascinating. Xenia may have trouble showing how she cares, and joining his life and interacting with the public is going to be a learning experience for her. I’d love to read more about that, but it would be a lot slower paced than the rest of the book is, so I surmise it would feel jarring.

The romance is high-octane. Xenia and Axton leap off the page and then she roundhouse kicks you and he does something naughty. Axton finds her roundhouse kicks totally hot. He’s a fictional character after my own heart. He is sweet, respectful, responsible, steady, and can talk dirty very well. When I read about them getting physical, I thought about fanning myself.

My grumbles

The letter X. Centax. Axton Saros. Xander. Xenia Alexander. The city of Haxx, the rebel Dax. It felt a little much. Even if the planet uses the letter a lot along with C and S, it holds a place in my head with silly things like xylophones. It’s not as inherently funny as ‘Kalamazoo,’ but my mirth did break my immersion.

It’s a novella. The subtleties of the characters aren’t explored- there isn’t time. There’s a late scene about a conflict that goes by in a blink and seems slightly cliche (love conquers everything?) to me. The courtship from uninvolved to engaged is also very quick.

Disclosure and final thoughts

I received this book for free for joining Anna Hackett’s mailing list. This review is unsolicited. I want more about Axton and Xenia, please- it was over too quickly for me. That would roundhouse kick everything.

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Resources: Goodreads / Amazon / ARe / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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