A science-fiction thriller delivers on suspense but turns squeamish over its edgy premise.
Seventeen-year-old Rain White is so desperate to escape the slums of Earth City that she agrees to trade her body to a handsome young starship captain for passage across the Void and medical treatment for her brother. But Johnny, it turns out, has a whole stable of “girls,” expected to sexually service his passengers and crew. When Rain discovers that his real business is even worse, it will take all of her smarts and courage just to survive. The futuristic societies and technology here are not mere window dressing but integral to the plot. Rain’s narrative voice is generally thoughtful and poetic, except when she’s berating herself for her inexplicable attraction to Johnny (despite presenting him as consummately vicious and abusive) while disregarding her obligatory gorgeous, supportive and noble secondary love interest. More disturbing, although everyone exclaims how pretty, clever and brave Rain is, and although the story (commendably) never romanticizes sex work, Rain—even after years on the streets with her prostitute best friend—remains unbelievably virginally innocent and prudishly judgmental. Her sexual encounters are glossed over in vague terms (unlike the many graphic descriptions of gory violence), and her unselfish motives and lack of alternatives are so frequently emphasized that her constant wallowing in shame and self-denigration becomes more irritating than sympathetic.
Those ready to gloss over the stereotypical characters, the presentation of an all-white, exclusively hetero future and the unfortunate subtextual implications will enjoy an elegantly written and emotionally cathartic page-turner. (Science fiction. 14 & up)