Book Review: Stranded with the Cyborg by Cara Bristol

The time and place

Our future, post 23rd century. There’s action on a space port, spaceship, and a wild planet with breathable atmosphere.

The suspension of disbelief

Space travel exists! Also, the government has a secret cyborg program where they outfit people with BCIs and nanomachines and such. The other civilizations have Near-Humans and Not-Very-Near-Humans.

The quick summary

Cyber Operations Agent Brock Mann is pulled from his well-deserved R&R to act as bodyguard for a diplomat. He and said diplomat have a history: she was a pain in his rear when he guarded her years ago, and got him fired by doing something pretty heinous, indirectly causing him career problems. She feels bad about it now, and is trying to get meaningful work done. Their journey goes awry, and they get stranded on a strange planet. Can Brock keep his computer parts a secret from Penelope on the planet together? Can she stop herself from jumping his bones? Does she even want to stop herself?

My squees

I’ve always been a bit confused by the idea of engineered cyborgs that grew in a vat. My thinking is that drones are making fighter pilots obsolete already- if we need a mix of human ingenuity and processing power, why not outfit volunteers (and give them command posts) rather than grow slaves? Brock’s cyborg nature fits in with we are making cyborgs today: something doesn’t work, so we’ll integrate machinery in for functionality (he gets upgrades, though). Cochlear implants and Deep Brain Stimulation have improved quality of life for many, and people are developing cybernetics to help paralyzed people walk. Brock’s situation was a bit more acute, but it seems like a viable step in the direction we’re going with cybernetics.

Bristol also pulled a fast one on me: it’s mentioned that Penelope is the former President’s daughter in promotional material. I hope it’s not a spoiler to say said President is Penelope’s mother. I fell into a trap, assuming the President was a fellow. Laura Roslin of Battlestar Galactica should have helped cure me of that! It’s such a small thing, but I applaud the author for putting another chink into my unconscious gendering of professions.

The planet’s secret is pretty cool, and the way it’s used in the final conflict is well done.

My grumbles

Brock decides that nobody would want a cyborg, so keeps Penelope in the dark about it and pushes her away. It may be a state secret, but he also doesn’t tell her for his own personal reasons. I feel like she can make her own decisions on that, and that any man who pulled that with me would never hear the end of how that was not cool.

Although some of Penelope’s attitudes and actions make sense for a civilian with her sense of the diplomatic situation and little survival training, she has to be saved enough times that I filed her under ‘distressed damsel’. It’s not a trope that jives with me.

Read if you

  • Like alpha male cyborg heroes (are there more manly names than Brock Mann?)
  • Enjoy second chances, or couples needing to grow up before they’re ready for each other
  • Value beauty in nature, and especially rocks

Skip if you

  • Roll your eyes at big manly men with many muscles
  • Think the girl should always save herself
  • Have had a scarring accident in chem lab

Disclosure and final thoughts

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I found it a fun and sexy romp, but I wasn’t too attached to our leads. Alpha males usually aren’t my type, so I think that colors my review. If you do like such heroes, you’ll enjoy this story more.

Author site: carabristol.com

Resources: Goodreads / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon AU /  Amazon CA / All Romance / Barnes & Noble

Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is November. The rules are as follows: come up with a new story idea and write 50k words about it in a month, comprising a novel. That’s a lot of writing. I’ve seen people beg off their social lives or other commitments to make this happen, and sometimes I feel like they were due that alone time! Friends have raved to me about NaNo teaching them discipline and project management. There are some great support networks out there.

It’s tons of fun to knuckle down and DO THE THING sometimes, and having a supportive community makes NaNo enjoyable for lots of people. The majority of NaNo projects never go beyond the writer, never get revised or edited. And that’s cool. The writer can hold that draft close to his or her chest, lock it away as a nice memory, have only their close friends read it, or attempt to go further. My writing, too, may never see the light of day, although I vow I will revise the bejeezis (sic) out of it because I feel like I owe it to the story. The existence of NaNo somehow makes me feel more sanguine about this.

I write 10k per month. I consider that a lot to juggle with my job, spending time with friends and my partner, and getting enough rest to stay human. I honed project management and discipline in the crucible of graduate school. There I had my studies to consume me, and my thesis/project was the center of it. If I’m going to devote myself to a creative endeavor that hard, it must be the center of my life, and I can’t do that right now. I work at a steady pace, and pushing myself tends to lead to burnout.

That said, there’s still the temptation to push somewhat at something I am already working on. This would put me in the NaNo Rebels group, who don’t follow the guidelines. I don’t know about that, though: pressuring myself to write doesn’t seem to help. Writing a little bit most nights has already made me a faster writer. The first round of edits will reveal what impact that has on the quality of my writing.

To those who are doing NaNo this year: You inspire me, and I’m cheering you on! Writing has made me appreciate reading even more. I hope it does that for you, too!