This is part of my series of reviews of asexual fiction titles published on Smashwords.
What Is This Story About?
Nadin is a young woman on Iamos, a planet which will be uninhabitable in one year, so everyone will have to evacuate or perish. It’s an interesting time to come of age.
Isaak is a teenager on Mars in the year 2073. Mars is ruled by a corporation called GSAF. Isaak’s father disappeared two years ago, and among his possessions, he finds an ancient coin. And then he finds signs that Mars has been inhabited by human-like people a long time ago – but how is that possible?
What Sexual and/or Violent Content Does This Story Have, If Any?
There is a scene with unwanted making-out. The characters also sometimes talk about sex in a non-graphic way. Violence … there isn’t any outright gore, but potential for violence (as in, zillions of people being deliberately left to die) exists.
Tell Me More About This Novella.
I am going to be honest here. I stretched reading this novel out over a much longer time that I usually do. That’s because I had trouble motivating myself to read this. That means I do not remember all of the events of this story (particularly in the first half) as well as I wish I did for the sake of writing this review.
I felt that Part 1 drags too much. It became a vicious cycle. Because I was not into the story, I had trouble keeping track of all the characters (except the 2-3 most important characters), and because I have trouble keeping track of the characters, it was hard for me to care about what was happening, and because I did not care, I read only a little bit at at time and would forget stuff between sittings, which made it even harder to get into the story.
I became significantly more interested in the story at the end of Part 1, which is why I read Part 2 and 3 at a faster pace.
This review is coming off harsher than I intend. I think the writing quality is higher than many of the other asexual stories I review on this blog. I can see where positive reviews such as this one are coming from. However, for some reason, this story does not speak to me.
On the asexuality content scale (1 = ‘By the way, I’m asexual’ and asexuality is never mentioned again, 10 = a story all about asexuality and little else) I would rate this story as a 2.
Both of the main characters fall under the asexual umbrella. Isaak is the first character I have ever found in a novel who explicitly identifies as demisexual. This is the scene in which this is revealed (I have replaced a some words with  to avoid spoilers):
He smiled back, ruffling my hair like he used to when I was little. Then he said, “So, does this mean you’re not slobbering over Tamara anymore? Or are you just sowing some wild oats?”
I groaned, my shoulders slumping. “, don’t be gross.”
“Ah, come on, . You’re not still on about that oddball demigod thing, are you?”
“Demisexual, ,” I corrected him through gritted teeth. “And it’s not an ‘oddball’ thing, thanks so much. It’s normal. Lots of people feel this way.”
[He] rolled his eyes. “Right. And that’s why you have to make up a weird, complicated name for it.”
I jumped to my feet, pushing away from him. “It’s not weird, and I didn’t make it up! I’ve told you a million times. It’s completely simple: I just don’t feel sexual attraction that much. Not unless there’s a bond first. That’s all there is to it.”
The other protagonist, Nadin, is asexual, though she does not have that vocabulary to describe herself. Though it is not explicitly stated, there are clear signs, and Word of God says that she is asexual. This is the scene in which it is most obvious (note: this is the scene with unwanted making-out):
He didn’t seem to notice my revulsion. His lips slid down the side of my neck, and his hands caressed my back, my thighs. His breath came out in a sigh. “I love you, Nadin,” he whispered, pulling my body closer to his, and I could feel the hardness of him beneath his clothing.
“Ceilos!” I cried again, louder this time.
He pulled away, his eyes unfocused and confused. “What is it?”
“I-I…” I was shaking. I didn’t know what to say. It was like I was asleep again, having some kind of horrible nightmare.
He blinked a few times, his eyes coming back into focus. “What’s wrong? Didn’t you like it?”
Why would I like that?! my mind screamed, but I couldn’t find my voice. I couldn’t bear to see the hurt on Ceilos’ face, couldn’t understand what I had done to cause it.
He pushed away from me, getting to his feet. “I’m sorry, Nadin,” he said, his voice impossibly small. “I thought… I thought you loved me, too.”
I jumped up after him. “I do love you!” I protested.
“Then why don’t you—” I flinched, and he lowered his volume. “Why don’t you want me?”
I had broken him. No, I had broken us. I could feel it as surely as the cold air around us, as the fading atmosphere outside the dome. Something was wrong with me, and it had ruined Ceilos and me forever. We could never go back.
I couldn’t stop the tears this time. They coursed freely down my face, burned my throat. “I don’t know,” I said.
As you can see, this fits the very common narrative of asexual people feeling like they are broken before they start thinking of it as a sexual orientation, especially in the context of a romantic relationship where they feel obligated to be happy about sexual things which repel them.
My guess is that, in the next book, Isaak and Nadin are going to compare notes about this.
Was This Written by an Asexual?
Yes, Lyssa Chiavari is asexual.
Hey Sara, Do You Like This Novel?
No, I don’t.
You can buy Fourth World from Smashwords and various other eBook retailers.