REVIEW: Slave Trade by Susan Wright

Rose Rico never believed the rumors, that the government was secretly selling human beings to the Alphas in exchange for advanced alien technology. The idea that human sex slaves were a luxury item throughout the galaxy was just too ridiculous to take seriously — until Rose found herself, along with hundreds of other human captives, bound for the far reaches of space, and compelled to cater to the depraved desires of her new alien masters. As a rule, pleasure slaves don’t live very long, especially the stubborn ones. But Rose refuses to give up. Someday, somehow, she’ll win back her freedom — or die trying!

Warnings: Noncon, Sex Slavery, Violence, Ritual Self Harm

Category: M/F, M/M, F/F, ☿️ 

Slave Trade is a sci-fi action/adventure erotica and follows an ensemble cast through the inner workings of a Galaxy wide war. Each chapter moves between different character’s POV as it explores the experiences of various people living under the hard rule of the ruling alien regime. Rose is a newly captured human from Earth, rebellious and headstrong. Ash is a human slave, raised hir whole life under the Domain. Gandre Li is a beta in the Domain army, slowly coming to sympathize with the plight of the slaves. Kwort is a lowly engineer, working for the Domain. All of them and more end up thrust together by the turning tides of the war.

*I should mention that there is an intersex character in this book, and the text can use some fairly outdated language surrounding intersex. It refers to the character as a “herm” and uses hir and s/he pronouns.

The story moves at a fairly brisk pace, bringing the readers through the intrigues and the action of the narrative. The writing is good, with a lot of things going on in a lot of different sectors of the Galaxy. There’s slaves being shipped out from Earth, there’s generals in the military with personal grudges against each other, there’s a lot of things happening at all points in the plot that keep the reader guessing at what is going to come next. It doesn’t really take the track that I expected, either, being more of an “underdog rebels against a fascist regime” ala Star Wars than a slavefic, which while perhaps not what I was hoping for is interesting and fun in it’s own right.

It’s always a little difficult to develop a large attachment in your audience when you play with such a large cast, especially given that this particular style of story tends to skip around pieces of the narrative right when the reader was just getting invested in a different segment. That can be exhausting if a reader is trying to maintain investment in this or that character, but on the plus side of things it gives a wider look and perspective into the world at large and the kinds of people living in it.

Some of the characters are easier to be invested in than others. Ash is my favourite, demonstrating a sizable amount of inner strength and integrity and the ability to lead and do what is necessary to survive. Hir experiences within the Domain are explored as well as hir emotional reactions to them, and then the slow way in which s/he builds up confidence once s/he escapes is lovely to watch. Meanwhile Rose absolutely… grates. It’s not just that she’s reckless and makes rash decisions that honestly should only have resulted in her getting herself and others killed, it’s that the narrative rewards her for acting impulsive and stupidly. Shes meant to come off as courageous but she just comes off childish. It doesn’t help that her dialogue feels like a painfully forced rebellious attitude rather than actual strength of will.

Gandre Li and her slave Trace are, like Ash, more level headed and likeable characters and a large source of the emotional impact of the story. Gandre Li loves Trace, and hates the world that she has to endure within the Domain. She slowly comes to be a rebel sympathizer over the course of the story, which is very engaging.

There is a lot of really fun worldbuilding in this book! The Domain that rules the Galaxy is made up of a number of different alien races, all of which occupy various roles within the order. They use Alpha, Beta, Gamma ect ranks within their social structure that are apparently determined by their bloodline, and being published in 2003 it predates A/B/O tropes by around seven years. The structures of their military are interesting, as are the biological sex drives of the various alien races, some of which go into “cycle” once every week, others only once every month, ect. It’s a fairly well thought out setting with interesting military based politics and neat alien concepts and class structures.

The sex scenes in the book could have been a lot hotter… If the aliens hadn’t all been humanoid. Listen, a setting where humans are being used as sex slaves by aliens because humans are always sexually responsive while aliens only get horny within a set biological cycle is a great concept! And the ball was completely dropped when the text made it very clear that all aliens are humanoid in shape and anatomically similar to humans in genital configuration. The in-universe reason that the text gives for this is because there was a common ancestor that seeded all intelligent life in the galaxy, but of course we know that this is just to avoid really weird configurations of alien/human sex and honestly? If you’re going to write a smut novel about aliens banging humans, you might as well embrace it and go wild.

Beyond that, the smut was surprisingly soft and vanilla for a set up like this as well. It was well written, but didn’t end up hitting many of my own personal buttons, save for a few nice scenes at the beginning. If you’re looking for hard content, this isn’t quite the book for you. But if you like seeing a wide variety of sexualities represented and various flavours of sweet romance within the confines of a hard reality, it’s pretty well done.

Altogether it’s an interesting and fun kind of popcorn sci-fi, sort of like a smuttier version of any number of cheesy 90s space flicks. I enjoyed reading it, even if it didn’t actually end up being exactly the hardcore alien banging erotica I had hoped for, it was still fun and engaging enough that I am planning on reading both of the sequels as well.





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