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Friday, August 22, 2008

Tokyo Ink

Tokyo Ink by Ann Vremont
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story
Other: M/M, Multiple Partners
Rating: 4 Cherries
Review by Lotus

Shimizu -- the once-glittering glass pyramid in the middle of Tokyo Bay that housed a million people -- is now a crumbling super-prison owned by Iyashii Corporation. Tetsu Hogosha’s mother was caught in the city’s conversion. In a criminal system where the care and feeding of a child adds time to the mother’s crime, she signed him away to be an Iyashii bond employee as her only chance at freedom.

Now Tetsu is a free man and head of Iyashii’s security forces for the country. But he has a secret sideline that might one day break Iyashii’s hold on Shimizu. For months, he has watched the male dancer serving Iyashii’s executive tea room. Tetsu knows every flawless movement the male geisha will make, from tea ceremony, to fan dance, to the slow revelation of his naked, tattooed flesh before he takes the executives, alone or in pairs, into the bedroom suite adjoining the tea room to satisfy their every desire.

For just as long, Tetsu has tried to convince himself he watches his unwitting accomplice only to record the secret messages embedded in the tattoos’ design. But when Iyashii sends its top assassin after the male geisha, Tetsu is faced with the cold hard choice of protecting the message and its secret language at all costs or rescuing the one man capable of challenging his loyalties.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should perhaps mention that I’ve been fascinated with geisha for years. So, the prospect of reading about a male geisha in futuristic Tokyo got my mouth watering.

That, and I’m a sucker for a pretty boy with tattoos. Ann Vremont’s Tokyo Ink does not disappoint. Here you’ll find ridiculously sexy men, lots of subterfuge and drama, and delicious expositional sex. The action begins immediately and rarely lets up. Vremont gets that cyberpunk, even erotic cyberpunk, should have a dark, bitter, noir flavor to it. Tokyo Ink may be a love story, but it’s definitely not a romance.

You’ll end up really caring about Tetsu and Gabe, and not just because they’re both ridiculously hot. I found myself picturing Tetsu as Chow Yun Fat in his Hardboiled days, and that’s not a bad thing. Tetsu is driven, coldly logical, and achingly efficient. And yet, his obsession with Gabe humanizes him. Gabe is more than a little insane, but intriguing and emotionally magnetic. Even if you hate him at first, you might find yourself, like Tetsu, falling for him in spite of yourself. Their story is filled with danger and misunderstanding, but ultimately they somehow get to the point where they can face an uncertain future together.

The sex is searing hot, fraught with danger, regret, and doubt, and the plot itself is a bit of a nail-biter.

If there’s an overarching theme to Tokyo Ink, it’s probably this: true desire somehow thriving under the shadow of mechanical lust and sexual power brokering. It’s an intoxicating theme, and pretty much encapsulates everything erotic cyberpunk should be. Intrigued? Good. Now go read it.

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