Book Review: Breathing Vapor by Cynthia Sax

The time and place

Unknown time, presumably the future. The story takes place aboard various transport ships and on the planet Tau Ceti, a world colonized by the Humanoid Alliance. As per usual, the native people are second-class on their own land.

The suspension of disbelief

Humans have colonized space. They’ve also created cyborgs, biological constructs fused of human, machine frame, and nanomachines, as supersoldiers. They’re created as babies in vats, and then aged with acceleration so they grow to adulthood in only a few years.

The quick summary

Mira “the Merciless” Breazeal is a cold, cruel, capricious socialite and the daughter of a scientist known as the Designer (a higher-up in the Humanoid Alliance who deploys and dissects cyborgs). The cyborgs serving the Designer have decided to kill someone to make an example, and Mira makes a good target. Vapor, the would-be executioner, suspects Mira’s not all she seems. Or perhaps he just wants her for himself. Conflict of interest, much? Mira may want what’s best for Vapor (and also to do super fun things with his body), but she can’t trust anyone, as it will mean her doom. Can the two of them see eye to eye and earn Vapor’s freedom?

My squees

Mira makes this book for me. She’s brave and vulnerable, with a big heart she has to hide at all costs. Her best talent is bluffing, and she uses it well. She tries the best she can to do compassionate things while keeping her cover so she can do more good later. It’s a tough balancing act and she’s willing to have people believe the worst of her and hate her when she only wants to help them. Vapor, for his part, recognizes Mira’s specialties and lets her shine. He also understands what she is giving up by choosing a future with him. She may be the only woman he’s ever met until the start of the story, but he convinces her and the reader that his obsession isn’t due to that. Good on him.

The action is well-paced and the story’s tight: there’s no flab on it.

Sax does not pull punches: Mira goes through some terrible loss during the story and has to make sacrifices to do what she thinks is right and be with her love. This is my candy: high emotional stakes and sometimes getting curb-stomped in the emotional department.

My grumbles

What on earth kind of scientist gives subordinate people an unmonitored communication channel?! The cyborgs can all talk to each other without any of their supervisors even noticing that they are communicating. That snapped my disbelief right there: all of us using electronic communication today are under surveillance. I noticed a lack of different types of men in the story: the ones we meet are all virile cyborgs, weak and stupid guards, or cackling villains. Maybe that’s related.

There’s an exhibitionism scene near the end that made me blink several times and crook an eyebrow. Somehow it lacked the punch the earlier intimate scenes did for me. There are D/s elements, but they seem to be there for spice instead of lifestyle.

Read if you

  • Want the crushing lows of emotion along with soaring highs
  • Enjoy a high heat level in your romance
  • Need a heroine you can root for and believe in
  • Are a cyborg junkie

Skip if you

  • Don’t want to read about bad things happening to good people
  • Are turned off by violence or eff-bombs and other crude language
  • Think gray is not an acceptable skin color

Final thoughts

I’m not very interested in alpha males or D/s sexual encounters. I usually find them pretty boring, so if that’s all there is I can say well, this book went completely over my head and it’s better judged by someone who likes those. I bought this book on a sale (I thought Kobo, but the truth is ARe) because I’m a cybernetics fan and figured it was worth a try given the sample I’d read. I haven’t read Releasing Rage yet, and don’t think I missed anything because of that. I bought Crash and Burn a few weeks ago, and should get on reading that.

The elements I was meh about were there, but they didn’t get much in the way of the emotional payoffs of the story. The story addresses families, friendship, and the price a person can pay for their beliefs. This may be an erotic romance with lust riding the characters hard at the beginning (heh heh), but the love they express by the end feels real.

Author site: A Taste of Cyn

Resources: Goodreads / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble / Kobo / ARe