Leah Starsky's "Stalemate" represents another of my pet hates - stories where Avon (a) won't sleep with Blake unless he gives up the revolution but (b) wouldn't remain interested in Blake if he actually made that choice - although once again, Starsky won me over with her accurate characterisation, wry humour and smooth pacing. In contrast, Paula's "Feedback" had an intriguing central concept (sex between Tarrant and Vila enhanced by their linkage to the supercomputer Jabberwocky) but since I'm not familiar with Paula's Jabberwocky series, I felt as though I was missing out on a lot of the resonances in the story.
"Bottle of Wine" by Vanessa Mullen is a wicked piece of work, packing in as many sexual manoeuvres as eight pages could possibly hold (D/V, A/V, A/S/V) and ending with the delightful image of Soolin gazing at "the dark head and the light head resting upon her", which, I suppose, makes it a Mary Soolin story - in other words, a sophisticated and tongue-in-cheek version of the usual Mary Sue.
Then there is an abrupt shift of tone in "Fool's Interlude", Catocala's account of Vila falling apart after an alternate version of Gauda Prime, set up by Avon and Blake to fool the Federation. Vila's anguish, indicated by some rather clumsy phonetic stammering, wins Avon's heart and left me feeling intensely irritated - but then, I see Vila as more resilient and Avon as less compassionate than this.
In Claire's "With this Ring," Jenna hopes Blake is going to give her the ring she has seen him buy, until she notices Avon wearing it - a plot device that comes close to Jenna-bashing, not one of my favourite sports.
Pat Terra's "Jealousy" revolves around a double deception, where Vila takes Tynus's place because he wants to know how Avon will react sexually to a fellow Alpha and then discovers that Avon actually recognised him all along. Terra combines hot sex with a deft handling of Vila's bedroom masquerade and then uses the situation to propel Avon and Vila through their class barriers into a more honest and satisfying relationship.
In "Slaver", Avon and Blake are sold as sex slaves to a high priestess and her virgin daughter but since Mystral never really decides whether this is a pleasant romp or an exercise in humiliation, the story remains uncomfortably superficial.
Khylara's "Forgiveness", set straight after Orbit, takes Vila through a bewildering series of mood changes in three short pages, centering around the premise that being stalked and almost killed by your lover can bring the two of you closer together, as long as your lover apologises nicely ...
After that, it was a relief to turn to Irish's "Sentiment," another of her knowledgable stories about Avon and Blake, where Avon starts flirting with Blake to annoy Jenna but finds himself caught by his own manipulations. While Irish doesn't shy away from the inherent A/B angst, she always manages to steer her protagonists through their conflicts to a convincingly happy ending and she keeps an observant eye on the rest of the Liberator's crew as well.
Leslie Boucher sets up a potentially heart-wrenching situation in "Return to Life", when Vila is called back to the Liberator to take care of Avon while he waits to see whether Tarrant, now his lover, can be resuscitated after an accident. However, the emotions underlying the events don't come through very clearly, possibly because Boucher's story seems to be part of an ongoing series.
Rhapsodie's "Tripping the Light Fantastic" starts well, with Soolin and Vila involved in a dance that gradually mutates into sex, although the style of the story doesn't really match its subject matter, being too down to earth and too dependent on comic backchat to bring out the poetry inherent in the basic concept.
And there's a different kind of clash between style and subject in Claire's story "Workout", when a session in the Liberator's weight room ends with tears of joy and vows of eternal love, rather than some opportunistic sweaty gym sex for Blake and Avon.
"Cat and Mouse" and "Cat Flap" by Audrey Weirdsley are a pair of related fragments, based around the idea that Avon and Vila met at the Thieves" Guild on earth, before ending up on the same prison ship. In Cassandra's "A Chance You Have to Take", Avon and Tarrant decide to sleep together in order to relieve their sexual frustration - a perfectly realistic premise but IMHO nowhere near as interesting to read about as either mindless lust or unabashed romance. And, speaking of unabashed romance, Rebel Desires ends with a good example of that particular genre in Catherine Salmon's "To Trust a Friend," a classic A/B hurt/comfort love story, rounding out a zine that really does seem to have something for everyone.
Quest for Fire (A/T) - Riley Cannon & Cami O'Tool
Stalemate (B/A) - Leah Starsky
Feedback (V/T) - Paula
Bottle of Wine (V/Soolin/A) - Vanessa Mullen
Fool's Interlude (A/V) - Catocala
With This Ring (B/A) - Claire
Jealousy (A/V) - Pat Terra
Slaver - Mystral
Forgiveness (A/V) - Khylara
Sentiment (B/A) - Irish
Return to Life (A/T) - Leslie Boucher
Tripping the Light Fantastic (V/Soolin) - Rapsodie
Workout (B/A) - Claire
Cat and Mouse (A/V) - Audrey Weirdsley
Cat Flap (A/V) - Audrey Weirdsley
A Chance you Have To Take (A/T) - Cassandra
To Trust a Friend (B/A) - Catherine Salmon
Predatory Prey - Catherine
The Games People Play - Catherine
front Cover - TACS
Back Cover - Randym
Cartoons - Audrey Weirdsley
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