2 April 2014
“Nessie could not believe she hadn’t heard anything about the mecha fight tonight. She loved a good battle performance, especially when it came to mechas. A circus of metal, mayhem and fights stirred the blood in her veins and made her feel alive.”
Circus Escape by Lilliana Rose
After being so pleasantly surprised by The Only Way by Jamie Sullivan from Less Than Three Press, I thought I would try another lesbian story from them. I have been a fan of Less Than Three Press since before it started (having followed the three women who started it on LiveJournal back in the day), but have almost exclusively read their male-male romances, and mostly by one author. Also, I have been a fan of steam-punk for over six years, so I requested a NetGalley for Circus Escape. The combination of a good publisher and a steam-punk based plot around mechas (anything from automatons to fighting units with a person inside) sounded great.
Circus Escape is a short story that follows Nessie and Joy. Nessie is a sheltered, upperclass young lady who dreams of seeing and working on mechas. She happens to see that there is a huge mecha fight later in the evening, which is her first chance to see her dream up close. She happens to stumble across Joy, the mecha pilot and engineer of Sally Spider, the new mecha fighting that evening. As Joy takes Nessie to see the mecha up close, the women feel a pull to each other, but as they separate so that Joy can prepare for the fight. Joy is told by her boss that she must lose the fight. What will Joy do? And how will these two have a happy ending?
I will be perfectly honest; I was completely underwhelmed by this short story. It is hard to put my finger on what left me underwhelmed, but it just feels a really amateur attempt at a lesbian story. Many of the elements in the story had potential, but were just mishandled. The most obvious to me is the plot. There was potential with the plot to be a really interesting story, one that I haven’t read before, mostly the females and mechas. Instead, everything felt a bit clunky and too easy. It reminded me of when little kids think ‘if you like someone you marry them.’ It felt like that simple logic.
I probably could have forgiven the author for the lack of complexity in the plot if the writing style or characters had saved the story, but they didn’t. My least favourite thing about the story was the dialogue. Most of the lines between Joy and Nessie were horrible innuendos. For example, “Joy placed her finger on Nessie’s lips, silencing her. ‘You’re the only one over-lubricating here!’”. Without a slapstick-style story, these innuendos felt gross. Also Joy’s accent is rather inconsistent, with phrases being used in ways that felt forced and strange. For example, “salty pomegranate flavour,” sticks out in my mind.
The story wasn’t completely without good points though. The mechas in the story were interesting and different from others that I have read. The description of Sally Spider and the other two fighting mechas were interesting, as well as the glimpses at the finer details of the mechanics. I am not very mechanically minded myself, so I was glad the descriptions never got too technical. The world building in the story was also interesting, with the mecha fighters being a modern circus act that travels world to world performing shows.
While I have certainly read worse stories, this was a disappointment to me. I was hoping for a really good story. The author has potential, but this Circus Escape was not for me. I would not be able to recommend it, especially as I have read a number of much better thought out and executed fanfics.
Final Verdict: Unless you receive a free copy, just skip Circus Escape and read some fanfics from your favourite fandom instead.