Author: Marguerite Labbe
Publisher: DSP Publications
Length: 210 Pages
Category: Horror, Sci-Fi
At a Glance: Pandora is a powerful novel, one with depth and unending action. Once again, Marguerite Labbe proves that she can write an intelligent, clever story that sticks with you well beyond the last page.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Haunted by the screams of the men he murdered, ex-Marine medic Riff Khora is serving a life sentence on board a prison ship. Seeking more punishment for his crime, he strikes a deal with the corrupt Captain Vidal—an exchange of pleasure and pain—and forges a new life leading the team that surveys space wreckage for salvage.
Ship engineer Zed Jakobsen’s psychometric abilities make prison a sentence worse than death, and the barrage of emotional stimuli is an unending torment. His only regret is that he didn’t kill the monster who sent him to prison, and only a glimmer of hope to escape a judgment he doesn’t deserve keeps him clinging to a brutal existence.
When they board derelict ship Pandora and discover a lone survivor, the hell of prison life plunges into abject horror. An epidemic of violence and insanity consumes their ship, driving the crew to murder and destruction. Mutual need draws Riff and Zed together, and their bond gives them the strength to fight a reality they cannot trust. But Vidal possesses the only means of escape from the nightmare, and he’s not letting anyone leave alive.
First Edition published as Pandora in the Deep Into Darkness: Aliens, Alphas and Antiheroes Anthology by Smashwords, 2015.
Review: I think my favorite genre in M/M literature has to be a good mystery, but a sure bet for the runner-up would be sci-fi. When I find a novel that combines these two, and does it well, I must admit I’m happy as a pig in… Well, I’m sure you get my drift. If that novel then goes a step further and has to its credit intriguing characters, a fully realized setting that is both futuristic and believable, and not one but two nasty baddies, then you not only have grabbed my attention but you’ve probably written the book I just read–Pandora by author Marguerite Labbe.
Set on a floating penal colony in space, we are introduced to what is effectively a chain gang crew whose existence aboard ship is brutal, repetitive and carries a life sentence. With a sadistic set of guards led by a repellent captain who gets off on inflicting both emotional and physical pain, the inmates on board do whatever they can to survive. Riff leads a motley gang who manages to beat both the monotony and the torture by being the captain’s chief reclamation crew. Their job is to board the abandoned ships that are discovered in deep space in order to claim whatever booty they can find. On one such mission they come back with more than they bargained for when they find a loan survivor in a cryotube aboard the ship Pandora, which appears to have been the site of an ungodly massacre. The violence and bloodshed they witness is tantamount to a nightmare–one from which they cannot awaken.
Unfortunately for Riff, the evil they have returned with is not the only one he has to contend with in his life. He has struck a deal with the devil. In exchange for a pain which releases both his inner demons and affords him sexual release, he has chained himself physically to the captain, who can only be described as something just short of Satan himself. But Riff’s new crewmember, Zed, is determined to change all of that. Now, if only he can convince Riff that pain doesn’t just have to be meted out in order to make one forget, but also shared to draw one closer to the person they love.
I will fully admit that this is perhaps the worst synopsis I have ever written of what is an absolutely incredible novel. I simply can’t tell you too much more because to do so might minimize the impact both the horror and the mystery involved in the story will have on you. I was, quite frankly, on the edge of my seat throughout most of this book. What stood out most prominently was the desperation both Riff and Zed felt when faced with a life lived on the hellhole the ship had become for them. You could literally feel their emotional turmoil and fear not only while they tried to survive the bloodbath that the final journey the ship took would become, but also when any memory of their past pushed past the walls they had erected mentally in order to remain sane.
These were men who didn’t deserve to be on this ship, even though they may have done the violence that would’ve most certainly earned them a place. But, like most personal stories, there were extenuating circumstances for both Riff and Zed. But life is not always fair and in this case, a deal that Riff entered into knowingly will come to haunt him and spill over onto Zed in the most horrid of ways
The BDSM scenes in this story are not always pretty, but even more disturbing is the emotional scars that have been left behind inside the psyche of both these men. My heart wept for them and their circumstances. I hated the captain and his crew for the pleasure they took in tormenting those they should have been watching over. This was, perhaps, one of the best psychological thrillers wrapped inside a sci-fi horror novel that I’ve ever read. Author Marguerite Labbe knows her characters and she creates them with such incredible detail that they come to life before your very eyes. You wait with bated breath and watch in horror as she turns every corner in the ship into a floating nightmare and sacrifices one character after another so that her heroes can remain standing in the end, or so we hope.
Pandora is a powerful novel, one with depth and unending action. Once again, Marguerite Labbe proves that she can write an intelligent, clever story that sticks with you well beyond the last page.
You can buy Pandora here: