When I picked up Pets in Space, I honestly had no idea what to expect. At first, the anthology seemed a little different from what I normally read, and seemed a little strange as a book club pick for Vaginal Fantasy, which generally focuses on stories with strong female leads, in addition to elements of fantasy, science fiction, and romance. Although these stories definitely have elements of science fiction and romance, I was thrown off by the fact that it was an anthology. To be honest, I was a little hesitant to read it. I was worried about how genres would develop in short story format, especially given the fact that the anthology focuses on romance, science fiction, and pets. However, I was excited to be reading works from nine different authors other than S.E. Smith, Veronica Scott and Pauline Baird Jones.
I was pleasantly surprised with how Pets in Space turned out. Despite being an anthology, a few of the short stories are incredibly detailed and feel like they are the right length. As with every anthology, there are a few pieces that are stronger and more memorable than others. I was even surprised to find the stories I was initially disinterested in turned out to be really good.
Overall, Pets in Space is a light, whimsical read. I loved the fact that each story included at least one pet. I really enjoyed reading about the relationships between pets and their owners, and the observations made about the world from a pet’s point of view. More than anything, this collection was something that was pleasant to read as a pick-me-up as many of the stories are playful and cute. Don’t let those words fool you; there is plenty of romance and science fiction elements present in these tales as well.
This review contains spoilers and quotes from the book
To begin, many of these stories felt rather similar to one another. In just about every story, two people meet and instantly fall in love. As cute as this is, when you decide to sit down and read an anthology, you don’t want everything to feel the same. Although I love reading romance stories with cute and happy endings, many of these followed the standard: boy-meets-girl; there’s love at first sight; sexual tension arises; they give in to their desires and form a relationship from there. As much as I hate to admit it, many of these stories felt similar in this respect.
I wanted to love every story in this anthology, but there were a few that came out on top for a number of reasons. Some provided incredible details about unique science fiction and fantasy components; others were incredibly well written and had slight differences that made them stand out from stereotypical romance; and last but not least, some had absolutely wonderful pets. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I disliked any story in this collection. There was something incredibly unique about each one and I am glad that I was introduced to new authors in the process – reading Pets in Space was a wonderful experience.
However, out of the nine stories that make up the collection, there were three that stood out in particular: “A Mate for Matrix” by Smith; “Star Cruise: Stowaway” by Scott; and “StarDog” by Laurie A. Green.
While all three of these stories follow the romantic concept of love at first sight, there were so many different things about them that I loved. Each one had a variety of elements that set their plot lines apart while introducing the reader to unique science fiction details and especially adorable pets.
A human woman, an alien male, and a determined cyborg wolf hybrid who wants a family can only lead to one thing…A Mate for Matrix.
Matrix soon discovers that his hands are full and his life is in chaos. He might be a match for the deadliest creatures in the solar system, but can he handle one curvaceous human and her three mischievous kittens? He’s about to find out the hard way.
– excerpt from S.E. Smith’s “A Mate for Matrix,” Pets in Space
One of the first things that stood out in “A Mate for Matrix” was the creation of a unique pet. I immediately found myself drawn into the world in which the main character, Matrix. He and his cyborg companion are members of the Cyborg Protection Unit, a warrior division of the Zion military that sets out to protect the world from dangerous creatures. While on a mission to destroy a genetically engineered and incredibly dangerous creature known as a Crawler, Matrix finds more than he ever hoped for on Earth, all thanks to his cyborg companion, K-Nine.
Although I will admit that I absolutely hated the name, K-Nine is an incredibly interesting and lovable character. A hybrid between a wolf and a dog, K-Nine is a genetically enhanced cyborg that has the ability to think, talk, and reason. Highly intelligent and emotional, K-Nine makes it his priority to find Matrix a mate, even though he is initially against the plan.
Written from the perspective of all three characters, Matrix, K-Nine, and Jana, “A Mate for Matrix” is a wonderful story about finding love in an unexpected place. Smith manages to mix up typical romance stereotypes through witty humor – including the fact that Matrix and Jana are brought together thanks to K-Nine’s run in with a squirrel, as well as Jana’s especially uncomfortable encounter with her landlord. Add in the fact that you are constantly reading about the adorable antics of three kittens, and you will find yourself falling in love with this story.
As “A Mate for Matrix” unfolds, you find yourself falling in love with Matrix and Jana, all thanks to the presence of their incredible companions.
Cargo Master Owen Embersson is shocked when the Nebula Zephyr’s ship’s cat and her alien sidekick, Midorri, alert him to the presence of a stowaway. He has no idea of the dangerous complications to come – nor does he anticipate falling hard for the woman whose life he now holds in his hands. Life aboard the Nebula Zephyr has just become more interesting – and deadly.
– excerpt from Veronica Scott’s “Star Cruise: Stowaway,” Pets in Space
Although “Star Cruise: Stowaway” is another story that plays on romantic tropes, as the male character sets his sights on the female character and their deep attraction sparks and leads to an eventual romance. Nonetheless, Owen Embersson’s love interest, Tyrelle, is an incredibly unique and intriguing character. Scott immediately pulls the reader into an unbelievable world with Tyrelle at the center of attention due to her powers as a psychic and healer. Add two adorable companions — a cat and an alien creature that slightly resembles a cat — into the mix and you have the perfect short story.
Found aboard the ship in a shipping container in shackles with a bomb strapped around her neck, it’s no wonder readers find themselves captivated by Tyrelle’s character, if only for more information about what happened in her past. If that wasn’t enough to interest you, she also has the ability to communicate telepathically with both her pets. Furthermore, she has incredible magic powers that allow her to heal as well as destroy at will.
As you learn more about Tyrelle through Owen, you will find yourself devouring this story, eager to learn more about the mysterious female.
Navigator Taro Shall has a mission no one wants – find a way to eradicate snakes on a starship. He never expects to find the answer to his problem in a charming street vendor named Adini. His already unusual mission becomes more complicated when he suddenly acquires an adorable StarDog that soon sweeps him and Adini into the maw of a brewing insurrection.
– excerpt from Laurie A. Green’s “Star Dog,” Pets in Space
At first, I was extremely skeptical about “StarDog.” To be honest, this was one of the stories in the anthology I initially disliked. For some, my reasoning may seem a little silly, but I didn’t care for the premise behind the meeting of Taro and Adini, who are brought together only due to Taro’s ship having a snake infestation and Adini happens to be an exterminator of sorts.
Once you get past the very beginning, though, this story is a wonderful read. Not only does Green develop a story that is different from the others in this anthology she creates an incredibly unique pet that brings a tremendous amount of depth to the world building of the story.
Contrary to the name, the titular StarDog is not actually a dog, but a hybrid genetically-engineered companion. In this case, the StarDog in question, Katarina, is a mixture of canine, feline, weasel and mongoose – something that is incredibly different from anything I’ve encountered in any science fiction universe.
Furthermore, although Taro and Adini are initially attracted to one another, their relationship develops at a much slower pace than many of the other relationships within the various stories of this anthology. In fact, they even go out on a “date” before they solidify their feelings for one another.
As if a unique pet and a romance weren’t enough to pull you in, Green incorporates an element of mystery that is completely unexpected, which you notice in one of the minor characters of the story. All in all, “StarDog” was a wonderful read that completely blew away my initial expectations with unique world building and character design.
Pets in Space is a great read that helped me unwind with its light-hearted tone and subject matter. Although the voices and stories in this collection are indeed interesting, I wouldn’t recommend reading them all in one sitting (or without a break for other reading). Honestly, that might be one of the reasons I found myself slightly annoyed with the many comparisons between romance plot lines across other stories.
Overall, this anthology is a great pick for animal lovers who want to learn a little more about how their lovable companions observe the world. Pets play a very significant role everywhere in these stories and it’s a wonderful experience, reading from their perspectives, as it really does offer the reader a new outlook on life.