The worst thing in the world is finding a book that sounds interesting and looks like it hits all your interest buttons, only to find you have to force yourself to read it. That happened to me with Scardust. The story isn’t bad, the characters aren’t bad, the writing style isn’t bad, but some combination of the three just leaves you… wanting. I really wanted to like the book. Amnesiac hero, sci-fi, and m/m romance? Okay, I’m in. Sadly, it just didn’t work for me.
It’s the year 2037 and Raleigh Williams is determined to leave his life on Earth behind and start over as a Martian colony member. He promised his brother. He is determined. He is also quite young, only about nineteen, damaged, and has anger issues (plus having to prostitute himself to raise enough money to even take the classes and tests required for Mars colonists). He’s on some sort of medication to try and make him more socially acceptable, but all it’s managed to do is leave him pretty much numb, caring only for his sister and his dog. Mainly his dog.
But as he goes about his plans to get to Mars, he finds himself alone in the Texan desert when a meteor crashes to the ground. A meteor comprised of a strange man, covered in tattoos, who can’t remember anything from his past, and seems to have merged memories with Raleigh. Every time they touch, Raleigh has strange memories of a past that isn’t his, and Meteor Man has flashes of Raleigh’s less than ideal childhood.
Raleigh agrees to help Meteor Man figure out his past using their memory swaps. But even while Raleigh is slowly falling for him (as well as the young man he sees in the memories), there’s a greater conspiracy going on that threatens both their lives. Raleigh isn’t the only one who knows that something crashed in the desert. And the others who know have black SUVs, automatic weapons, and some sort of connection to Meteor Man’s full body tattoos.
There are times I think near-future science fiction is one of the hardest things to master. Scardust takes place in 2037, a short 20 years into our future, so much of the science should already be on the horizon, right? Well, there is a lot that I had trouble with, starting with people living on Mars, all the way to Crow, our Meteor Man, falling from the sky and merging memories with Raleigh. And true, much of it is explained away by the twist at the end (which is really well written, but feels less like a twist and more like a cop-out), but even that seems a bit beyond our current technological advances.
Even without all that, I had trouble getting into the story. The first 20%, even with the story trying to move along at a quick pace, feels like it’s plodding. I had trouble liking Raleigh as a character, and Crow was even more untouchable. I never felt emotionally connected to either one, or to the story itself.
All that being said, it’s a pretty ambitious tale. Raleigh has some sort of mental illness disability – which is never fully explained – that is keeping him with his sister and likely to keep him off Mars. That alone would make for an interesting character, especially in the romance world. On top of that, we have Crow’s amnesia, their merging memories, and the tech advances sprinkled throughout. Plus, we get a bit of a conspiracy going on (which really doesn’t feel like it belongs, but is interesting nonetheless). But the writing style doesn’t quite mesh with the storyline and the really unique premise. I just wasn’t engaged for most of the book.
In the end, Scardust is a New Adult, sci-fi, m/m romance that tries really hard to be everything and doesn’t quite succeed. It was worth the try – it’s basically filled with all my favorite tropes – but between my lack of connection to the characters and my disinterest in the storyline as it was written, it just wasn’t for me.