My uncle Pierre had a huge library of science fiction and fantasy books, and now that it’s mine I’m spoiled for choice. I read them here, and sometimes the choice is a bit spoiled.
By the fortieth page, I’d renamed Cynthia Felice’s 1991 novel The Khan’s Persuasion to Planet of the Wizard-Bros. It is apt. The story is about Sindon Liang, a corporate anthropologist who comes to the world of Cestry Prime. Estranged from David, who is both her lover and her boss, she falls into the arms of the powerful Rukmani Khan. In a 284 page epic that spans years, she will be the fulcrum against which not just her fate, but the fate of all the colonists is decided as they adapt to a new world and struggle to understand the mysteries of the Persuaders.
Cestry Prime is ruled by the Persuaders, who essentially have magic powers that they call “Persuasion”. They can cleave rocks with their minds, manipulate molecules, heal people with a touch, and coax gold from cavern walls. Rukmani Khan is the greatest Persuader of them all and the leader of his people. They are essentially Wizard-bros. Fundamentally disinterested in the presence of the colonists, who can offer them nothing that their magic can’t give them, and living a life of partying hard and honouring the bro-code, they take notice when they realize just how many of the colonists are hotties. When the Khan sees Sindon, he resolves to use all of his sexual sorcery to entice her to his side. The Persuaders powers, as is often repeated in the book, make them exceptional lovers. It isn’t an explicit novel, but it does sensually use the words “Vaginal contractions” more than once.
The summary is straightforward from there. Sindon goes with the Bro-Khan, the colonists chase them, there’s conflict between them and the Wizard-bros and also with David, her ex-lover henceforth known as Spacewimp, and Bro-Khan directly. Sexy-times are had at the Winter Palace, which is ruled by Bro-Khan’s wife, and after a while Sindon goes home, turns out she was pregnant with Spacewimp’s daughter the whole time. She tells nobody whose it is, gets screwed over by Spacewimp and the corporation, and when her daughter is in her teens gets dragged around the planet by both men in an amazing feat of macho bullshit. Bro-Khan dies in the end, David lives and gets the girl.
Despite being the main character of the story, and figuring heavily in every decision made by almost every character, from Spacewimp and Bro-Khan to Gulnar, Bro-Khan’s wife, and Theo, the CEO of their interplanetary startup, Sindon makes almost no decisions. The story never visits her perspective, entirely told through the eyes of Spacewimp or Bro-Khan. Any decision she does make is vetoed by one of these men with an explanation of what’s more important, or amended by them so their desires are met. Even when the life of her daughter, or the lives of all the colonists are at stake, the decision is ultimately taken out of her hands. In the end, she stays with Spacewimp because he and her daughter want it, but out of no particular desire to do so, saying she loves him only because he demands it.
Rukmani Khan is a character that rapidly transitions from strong, handsome fantasy lover to douchebag. In the beginning he’s the hero of the bodice ripper, the dashing Wizard-bro who tempts a woman from a far off land with his Persuadery prowess in the bedroom. It’s a seduction, and the author takes pains to note how respectful he is of Sindon’s space. Of course, being with her means cheating on his wife, which is recognized as wrong in his culture. He’s a slave to the customs of his people, except when they get in the way of booty calls with spaceladies. And nothing stops him from pushing around anyone else. Most memorable is a scene where Bro-Khan finds Spacewimp in a brutal blizzard and helps him resting, healing his frostbite because he swore not to kill Spacewimp (otherwise the bro-code would demand a kill). Instead, he paralyzes Spacewimp with magic and carefully describes “…the many ways in which I pleased Sindon…” (Page 163, no joke).
Spacewimp isn’t much better, first breaching his professionalism by having a relationship with his assistant, and then breaking it off out of that same professionalism. Jealous and frantic, Spacewimp learns that if you yell and demand loud enough, even the spacewimp can get the happy ending he always wanted, because everyone else will eventually go along. His insecurity about Bro-Khan is practically weaponized, leading him to assault everyone he knows in his laserlike focus to kill Bro-Khan and somehow win back Sindon. Surely she will love him if he is the bigger man.
I wanted this book to be subversive. Every turn of the page, I was hoping for the twist where Sindon kicks Bro-Khan in the nutsack, ignores Spacewimp, and goes off to live happily ever after in another valley. I waited for the moment that one character in the entire book listened to what she wanted rather than just increasing their volume until wishes were granted like she was some kind of decibel-activated genie. It is not. It is the struggle of Spacewimp and Alpha Wizard-bro over a prize that they don’t even really care about. In a scene late in the story, Bro-Khan anticipates seducing her daughter with bro-magic if Sindon won’t be his girl, saying that he has to have a red-haired woman at his side. Awesome.
On the reasonably arbitrary scale, with the noblest prose at the top and Space channel novelizations at the bottom, Planet of the Wizard-Bros is a three. It takes someone who is an interesting character in a strange situation character and uses her as a prop to showcase a tale of two men’s toxic sense of entitlement. It bypasses entirely the fact that the Wizard-bros are doing literal magic, and tries to focus on the sexiness but can’t quite make screaming matches erotic. Bonus points however, because this is an orphaned book. There are no ebook copies of The Khan’s Persuasion available, so once the print copies are gone, the book will evaporate. And despite being bad, it is memorable. And you can get one for a penny on Amazon.