Author Name: Angel Martinez
Book Name: The Pill Bugs of Time
Series: Offbeat Crimes
Page/Word Count: 31K
Categories: MM Romance, Sci-Fi
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Cover Artist: Emmy Ellis
Vikash Soren, the perfect police officer except for his odd paranormal ability, never seems to lose his temper. Always serene and competent, he’s taken on the role of mediator in a squad room full of misfits. But on the inside, he’s a mess. Unable to tell his police partner that he loves him, Vikash struggles silently, terrified of losing Kyle as a lover, partner and friend.
But life in the 77th Precinct doesn’t leave much room for internal reflection. A confrontation with a stick-throwing tumbleweed in Fairmount Park leads to bizarre consequences involving pill bugs, statues and…time travel? If Vikash manages to survive the week and stay in one point in time, he might be able to address normal things like relationship problems. He just needs Kyle to have a little more patience. Maybe a few centuries’ worth.
Every region has them, but no police department talks about them—the weird crimes, the encounters with creatures out of nightmares. The 77th Precincts exist in certain cities to handle paranormal crime and containment, usually staffed with experienced officers exhibiting psychic abilities.
In Philadelphia, through an odd mix of budget issues and circumstance, the 77th is manned entirely by officers with bizarre or severely limited psychic talents. The firestarter who can’t get a spark when it’s humid. The vampire who can’t drink whole blood. These are the stories of the misfits, the outcasts from even the strangeness of the paranormal community. Call them freaks, but they’re police officers first, serving and protecting, even if their methods aren’t always normal procedure.
Today, I’m very happy to have Angel Martinez stop by the blog. When I signed up for the tour, I was asked the following question: ‘We always hear how dangerous it is to alter the past. Tell us why you might agree or disagree.’
Time travel from a logical/scientific standpoint and from a fictional standpoint are often two different things. Logically, we can’t change the past. It’s already happened. So even if we were to return to the past to try to change an event, the changes we attempt to make have already happened and have not changed the outcome.
In fiction, we have more leeway and we can approach it a number of different ways. The first, Time Travel Case A, is the logical conclusion, that we can’t change the past. This can result in terrible things for the characters since most stories taking this approach conclude that if you have foreknowledge of an event and you go back in time to try to change it, you inevitably end up being the catalyst for the event rather than preventing it. So in this example, let’s say your mother died in a car crash. You go back in time, determined to prevent the crash. You try to keep your mother from leaving the house, but you only make her angry and she storms out, infuriated, not thinking clearly, and because of you, she dies in the car crash.
Time Travel Case B, we can change the past, but we have no way to predict the consequences of such changes. We think we do, but we have no idea what the eventual causal outcome will be. This is known as the Butterfly Effect, an example often used to explain chaos theory, in which small changes create causal ripples, which result in a domino effect of changes. Yes, you’ve changed the past. No, all of it isn’t going to be good. For a good demonstration of this, watch the movie of the same name – not an endorsement of the movie, but it’s a good illustration of how changing one thing you want to change snowballs into horrible consequences. If you go back to save your mother in this scenario, inevitably something worse will happen to her—a hopeless, prolonged battle with an incurable cancer, for instance.
Time Travel Case C is one where you travel back in time and essentially do something that should negate your own future. This is often called the grandfather paradox where the example is that you go back in time to kill your own grandparents, thus preventing your own birth. But wait…how could you have gone back in time if you never existed and if you never existed, how did you kill your grandparents? Quite frankly, the grandfather paradox is enough to give you a headache. Writers cleverly sidestep this sometimes by positing alternate world timelines in which different outcomes are possible along different time streams according to small divergences in cause and effect. Hitler dies from a childhood illness in one time stream, for instance. That history would then diverge from ours where he did not die.
For me? I fall on the side of our not being able to change the past. Whatever’s happened has already happened, whether we interfere with it or not. But if we could change it? I’m all for locking up the time machine and throwing away the key since there are far too many unforeseen consequences a single change could make to history, both personal and global. Is altering the past dangerous? Probably. I’ll just be in my TARDIS where it’s safe if you all decide to start doing it.
4✨s – I’m going to start this review with two caveats. 1) I rarely read sci-fi; and 2) I didn’t read the first book. Now you’re all ‘WTF Jessie,’ and I hear ya! Ignoring the first caveat, the second one is important in that while I now want to know where Kash and Kyle’s story began (see: Lime Gelatin & Other Monsters), I wasn’t lost. Intrigued by this whole new world, but not lost. There’s just enough of the main characters and the ensemble cast to draw you in without leaving you scratching your head.
I’m assuming this book picks up shortly after the first. Kyle and Kash are learning to navigate their personal and professional partnership within the boundaries of Kash’s fear of other people’s perceptions. Previous partners have made him feel like he has to chose a side or is always primed to cheat because he identifies as bisexual. Neither of which are true and is such a sad misconception that is an unfortunate reality. Kyle accepts who Kash is and if he had one wish, it would simply be that Kash wouldn’t flinch at the mere idea of public anything. A simple touch, the mention of dinner together…anything that might indicate that they were in a relationship where other people might hear.
Reconciling this and his feelings comes through an interesting medium. Time Travel. Each time he’s infected by one of the pill bugs, he travels to a different place in time and experiences both the possibility of life without Kyle and the fact that seemingly everyone everywhere else in the timeline is freer than he is. The question is, will he learn from those experiences so they can finally live a full and happy life, or will he realize Kyle’s better off without him?
I was rooting for the Happily Ever After and a resolution to the Pill Bug investigation in equal measure, and Angel didn’t disappoint. If sci-fi is your thing or you’re looking for something completely new, you should give the Offbeat Crimes series a try. I’ll definitely be going back to see where they all began.
Normal was something one left at the door when assigned to a paranormal police station. Officer Vikash Soren had seen that demonstrated the first time he had set foot inside the 77th. During roll call, the man who would later become his partner had accidentally shot fire from his fingers at the ceiling. Someone else’s fire, as it turned out. In the weeks that followed, he had encountered an animated leather jacket, worked with a vampire, a lizard man and various officers of dubious paranormal talents, and had helped stop the killing spree of an alligator snapping turtle the size of a sedan.
It would follow that nothing should surprise him anymore.
But when he walked into the squad room that morning, late due to a doctor’s appointment, his colleagues had gathered around the periphery of the room to watch Greg Santos in a fistfight with a puddle of water.
Coffee cup in hand, he wandered over to lean against the desk beside his partner.
“Hey, Kash.” Kyle gave him a quick glance, his attention fastened on the unlikely pugilists. “Everything go okay?”
“Yes. Shoulder’s fine.”
“You’re not even going to ask, are you?”
Vikash sipped his whipped cream-drowned mocha latte. “You’ll tell me.”
“You saying I talk too much, Soren?” Kyle nudged him with an elbow. “One of us has to. The suspect was originally an ice tree. Tree-ish. Thing. It was ice and looked like a three-year-old had built a tree out of Legos.”
Carrington Loveless III, the department’s nutritionally challenged vampire, came to lean against the desk on Vikash’s other side. “It was, as I understand it, standing on the Ben Franklin Parkway and hitting people as they walked by. Didn’t seem to be causing injury, but we can’t have an ice beast swatting tourists’ asses. Harassment, at the very least. Bad for the city’s image.”
“Why, yes. Yes, it did.” Carrington’s smile was just half a fang short of evil. “Melted through the net in which Santos had snared it, and the resulting puddle goosed him. Things escalated rather quickly from there.”
Greg didn’t seem to be making any headway, other than getting soaked. “Should get an Odo bucket,” Vikash murmured.
Kyle chuckled into his coffee. “Seriously, Carr? You never watched Deep Space Nine? The character who could only retain a solid shape for so long?”
Carrington sniffed. “Masters level courses in geek. Between the two of you, that’s what I’d need to decipher half your conversations.”
“This from someone who sings opera in the car,” Carrington’s partner, Amanda Zacchini, muttered as she walked past, her steps hindered by the piece of equipment she carried. Shira Lourdes, Greg’s partner, hurried after her with an armful of some sort of corrugated hose.
“I like a lot of music!”
“Moody, dark, emo music, sure,” Amanda countered, though her attention was on what she and Shira had brought in, most likely from Amanda’s truck, since they’d tracked in snow as well.
When Amanda attached the hose, Vikash finally recognized it—a Shop-Vac, of the sort people had in their garages or by their workbenches. He shook his head as he hurried over to get the vac plugged in for Amanda. While the male squad members had been standing around watching the struggle, some of them taking bets, their two female members had been deriving a solution.
Without another word, Amanda switched on the vac, sucked up the water combatant, removed the hose and jammed a rubber ball in the opening, effectively trapping the animated water and leaving Greg panting on the floor.
Lieutenant Dunfee had just emerged from her office, eyebrows raised. “Do I want to know?”
Perched on top of the lieutenant’s doorframe, a bright-blue and neon-pink bundle of feathers flapped its wings and let out a raucous croaking laugh. Edgar, the department’s foul-mouthed raven, finally decided to weigh in. “Water sports!” he called out. “Not safe for work! Fucking amateurs!”
Lieutenant Dunfee shot him a withering glare. “Enough with the editorial, Edgar. What the hell is going on out here?”
“Under control, ma’am,” Amanda deadpanned. “But I’m filing an expense report for a Shop-Vac. Just so you know.”
“Get it on my desk. I’ll sign it. See what the bean counters make of that.” The lieutenant pinned Greg with a hard stare. “Santos? You need medical assistance?”
Greg climbed to his feet hastily, wiping the back of one hand across his split lip. “No, ma’am.”
“Good to hear. Back to work, ladies and gentlemen. Try to keep the violent confrontations to a minimum today.”
A rather disgruntled and damp Greg Santos stalked off to the men’s room to clean up while Shira continued with booking the combative puddle.
“Just another day,” Vikash murmured as he finally took his seat at the desk he shared with Kyle.
“Hmm?” Kyle glanced up from his typing. “Oh. Yeah. Though I’m thankful for any day free of explosions and imminent death. Or are you having a paranormal existential crisis again?”
“An amused one.”
“Well, damn. If it’d been the other kind, I could get us takeout from My Thai, light some candles and put on Princess Bride when we got home.”
“Kyle. Work.” Vikash said it gently, but it was all he could do to keep his gaze from darting about to see if anyone had heard.
“It’s not like I’m yelling,” Kyle hissed. “God’s sake, Kash. The paranoia’s getting a little old.”
“Work is work and home is home.”
“Yeah, yeah, and never the twain shall meet. It’s not like I’m cornering you for a quickie in the conference room. Or locking lips over lunch.”
“The increased alliteration when you’re upset.”
“I’m not upset. Just a little irritated that you keep jumping and twitching if I get too close anywhere outside one of our apartments. We’re both professional at work. I don’t insist we hold hands those rare times we go out to dinner. Ticks me off that you keep acting, I don’t know, embarrassed about us.”
“You promised to stick to professional at work.”
“Easy, Soren.” Carrington patted his shoulder as he strolled past. “Suggesting takeout for dinner is hardly unprofessional.”
“You heard?” Vikash’s heart thudded against his breastbone. The whole department knows. Everyone can see.
“Vampire ears, my dear. What don’t I hear? Seriously, though, relax. No one has time to care about your little illicit tryst.”
Vikash might have taken the advice if Virago hadn’t bellowed across the room, “Hey! What’re you girls whispering about? Going to some rainbow and glitter bar?”
“Only if you come with us!” Kyle made kissy face noises in Virago’s direction. “Don’t forget your purse!”
“Shut it, Vance,” Amanda muttered as she stalked past and smacked Virago on the back of the head. “Your conf…confucking…what’s the word, Carr?”
“Conflation,” Carrington called back without missing a beat.
“Yeah, that word…of gay men with actual chicks is offensive.”
Normally, Vance Virago, self-proclaimed tough guy, cringing as he apologized would have been amusing. Vance couldn’t have heard them from across the room. He was merely bullying Kyle as he always did. But the timing was horrible, and between those homophobic words and Vikash’s twitching, they had managed to erase the contented ease from Kyle’s face. It gutted him that Vance could do that. Worse still, Vikash had no idea what to do about it.
He didn’t have a chance for even a minimalistic explanation or apology though, since an alert popped up onscreen from the lieutenant, ordering them to a disturbance in Fairmount Park.
Vance shoved violently back from his desk. “Aw, man!”
And our resident homophobe is our backup. Irritation crawled up Vikash’s spine. Kyle had never done anything to Vance except refuse to crumple under his bullying. Some days it was bad enough that Vikash wanted to file harassment charges on Kyle’s behalf, though Kyle would resent the interference. Still, it was wrong and— Oh, damn.
Through his rising anger, Vikash felt the uncomfortable heated ball of power at his core heralding his strange talent manifesting. He nearly panicked, the urge to reach across the desk and grab Kyle overwhelming. Together, they had a chance to direct the lightning blast of anger somewhere harmless. Maybe the old paper shredder that jammed after every page. But touching Kyle also meant the power would amplify in some bizarre melding of their broken paranormal talents. Not to mention, touching Kyle in the squad room just gave Vance more ammunition.
Then it was too late for choices. The power surged from him as he sat stone still, fighting to keep any reaction from his expression. A pop and a distinct electronic sizzle sounded on his left and he cringed.
“Fuck me!” Vance shouted, batting at his smoking computer monitor.
Jeff stood to help him smother the tiny flames with a towel. “Damn it, Vance. What did you do now?”
“I didn’t do it! I swear!”
“Lieutenant’s gonna stop letting you have computers if you keep breaking them.”
Vikash turned back to find Kyle staring at him instead of watching the commotion, his lips clamped together in an angry line.
“I don’t need you to protect me, Kash.”
“It wasn’t…it got away from me.”
Kyle snorted. “Obviously.”
The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for almost twenty-four years) gave birth to one amazing son, (now in college) and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.
Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.
She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.