Tuesday, August 4, 2020

REVIEW: Beast Blood, Vol. 1 (book) by Sato Fumino, illustrations by Akira Egawa, translated by Charis Messier

Beast Blood
could either be classified as sci-fi romance or science fiction with romantic aspects. As far as this first volume goes, I'm leaning towards the latter. This is licensed by Cross Infinite World.


(Content warning for on-page attempted rape, "rape as backstory," and a villain who gets off on watching videos of women getting raped and murdered.)

This is set on another planet, one that's been colonized for a while but that still has lots of dangerous and relatively lawless areas. Euphemia is a botanist who specializes in a plant called Night Bloom, the seeds of which can be used to produce a highly addictive narcotic known as Nightz. Specifically, Euphemia's goal is to eradicate Night Blooms from the face of the planet. No more Night Blooms means no more Nightz.

This unfortunately brings her and her sister Erica, the mayor, to the attention of some of the area's worst criminals. At the start of the book, Euphemia falls into a trap and would have been raped and murdered had it not been for the arrival of Zelaide (Zel), a Beast Blood. Beast Bloods are commonly known as animalistic murderers, but Zel turns out to be surprisingly kind, and Euphemia is drawn to him. She finds herself wanting to see more of him, and gets her wish when her sister arranges for Zel to be her bodyguard.

This is the second Cross Infinite World publication I've read, and at this point I really don't have a great opinion of their work. They seem to publish a larger percentage of works by women compared to other publishers of English translations of Japanese works, which I heartily applaud, but the quality of the two I've read so far has not been good. Some of it may be due to the quality of the original writing, but since I've noticed incorrectly used words, missing words, and awkwardly worded sentences, I'm inclined to think that their translation and editing has issues as well.

This wasn't so bad as to be unreadable, but overall it felt very amateurish, like I was reading a beginning author's self-published novel. It was hard to get a grasp on the setting - for example, it wasn't until about two thirds of the way through the book that I realized this wasn't a colony planet cut off from other humans, but rather a planet that people could potentially travel to and probably from. It also took me a while to figure out that "Muta" referred to all native animals on the planet, rather than any specific kinds.

The one thing that the author wrote about in detail and devoted a lot of time to was Beast Bloods - what made them different from humans, what they were like vs. how they were perceived, etc. Which would have been fine, except even that was a mess. The author couldn't keep all the details straight. For example, earlier in the book, readers were told that Beast Bloods had lower sex drives than humans due to their much longer lifespans. However, this was contradicted by another Beast Blood character thinking Zel's avoidance of sex was strange, plus a part near the end of the book when Beast Bloods were suddenly described as having higher libidos than humans. And I thought it was weird that the author's definition of low sex drive was "only has sex once a month." Considering the supposedly low Beast Blood sex drive and how much sex-related baggage Zel was carrying around (his mother was raped and killed in front of him when he was a child), once a month seemed like an awful lot.

While I was glad that Euphemia was interested in her job and actually did her work on-page, the plans for dealing with Night Blooms and Nightz were jaw-droppingly bad. Night Blooms were native plants. Theoretically they held some sort of place in the planet's ecosystem, and yet nothing was ever mentioned about that at all. Every time Euphemia talked about plans to eradicate Night Blooms, all I could think was that they were going to irrevocably screw up the planet. Euphemia's particular research focus was on proving that Mongolian gerbils (which were definitely not native) would not only eat Night Bloom seeds, but also prefer them over other more nutritious food. She eventually hoped to release either sterile or male-only populations of gerbils into the wild to eat Night Bloom seeds, disrupt the plant's ability to spread, and thereby make Nightz hard to produce. There were so many holes in that plan, it was like Swiss cheese.

There were two main storylines: Euphemia being targeted due to her connection to the mayor and because she was working to eradicate Nightz, and the gradually developing romance between Euphemia and Zel. The Nightz storyline was so-so, an excuse for occasional action scenes. The romance was a bit more interesting, but very clumsily written, and with some aspects that may be red flags for some readers. For example, Zel seeks out a Beast Blood sex worker at one point in the book. Normally this would be one of my red flags, but since it wasn't on-page and the book was written as more sci-fi with romantic aspects than sci-fi romance, I could deal with it. Zel and Euphemia weren't even vaguely a couple by that point. In fact, although Euphemia kept throwing herself at Zel, it took a lot longer than I expected for anything other than stammering and blushing to happen between them, considering this was essentially a soulmate romance.

I knew going in that this was volume 1 in a series (duology? I'm not sure), but I wasn't expecting the book to just...stop. This felt like the first half of one story, not a first volume. If I do read the next book, it'll be because this one didn't give me a proper ending. But do I want that ending badly enough to put up with more amateurish writing? At the moment, not really. The story, characters, world-building - all of it was pretty sloppy.


Black and white illustrations throughout, plus an afterword by the author.

No comments:

Post a Comment