Here's the blurb
Three little kittens have lost their way…
Layth Ali thought he was happy. On board the Sentinel of Gems, he is allowed to run the medical bay as he sees fit, and the crew appreciates his talents. Most importantly, the smugglers don’t ask him questions about his past or pressure him to leave his self-imposed exile. But when a new passenger and her precious cargo get dumped in his lap, it’s all he can do to deflect her incessant questions and keep her at arm’s length.
Meja Aquarone knew she was courting trouble when she stole a litter of kittens from the lab where she worked, but she refused to allow their perceived flaw to become a death sentence. Now she’s on the run, hoping that the crew of the Sentinel can smuggle her someplace safe without her employers catching her. She wasn’t expecting to find someone on board who understood the tiny creatures or who shielded his compassion behind layers of armor, but ten minutes with the ship’s doctor leaves her curious to know more.
Forced to go to the one place he swore never to return, Layth feels the walls closing in around them. With a corporate bounty on their heads, and three cats becoming increasingly difficult to hide, Layth and Meja must decide what they’re willing to sacrifice to gain the safety they desire, and if that protection is worth being alone.
Ah, genetically engineered kittens, not yer average ferals, then. Designer companion animals with the associated price tag. Like all manufactured luxury goods, anything that was not up to spec would be destroyed. Except Meja isn't prepared to let that happen to 0511-A, B, and C. Naturally, Golden Ratio Companion Animals isn't prepared to have inferior animals sold off, so Meja's in the crosshairs when she steals the litter.
It's a more than plausible premise and I quickly took to Meja, a genetic scientist ready to take a huge risk to smuggle the cats to a safer life. To do that, she takes passage with a group of smugglers. One of the crew is the ship's medic, who finds himself having to look after the new arrival and her trio of kittens.
The kittens are as cute, curious, and mischievous as you'd expect – and it seems some people in the future still get allergic reactions. I can relate to that. 😏 They also have a way of getting under people's skins. It's interesting to notice how several members of the crew change because of their presence.
There's a lot to like about this story. For a start there's the believable physics. The Sentinel of Gems uses a rotating arm to create gravity. That means there's very little gravity at the centre of the ship where the engines are located. In one scene, Layth heads down to the core to visit April the engineer who hails from a low gravity environment. They (as in not he or she) are very tall and thin and don't like to venture into gravity often – what you'd expect from a person born in those conditions. The description of drifting in the engineering area and sharing tea from pouches is much like what you'd expect from a visit to the ISS.
Through it all, of course, there's the love story as Meya
and Layth slowly get to know each other, forced together by a mutual obligation
to look after Meja's charges. After all, the kittens are worth a lot of money.
Gradually, Meja peels away the layers of armor that Layth has wrapped around
himself. What's the story with the scrap of material he keeps in his pocket?
What's his background? There's plenty of emotion in their physical encounters
but Hay leaves the nuts and bolts to the reader's imagination. And in the end, Layth has to come to terms with his past if he's to move on into the future.
The rest of the crew are wonderfully diverse and convincing: Barnes, the tough, no-nonsense captain (how Meja ends up on her ship is a great scene early in the story). Hicks, the competent pilot who sneaks out to play with the kittens at the end of her shifts. Barr, the rough, tough security guy who'll do anything for his shipmates.
It was a terrific story and once again a five-star read.
Grab a copy of Pets in Space, folks. You're sure to find something you like and it supports a great charity.
Have you bought your copy yet? You really should.