2018’s Free Chocolate is an interstellar adventure by Amber Royer.
Humans were surprised and alarmed to discover that alien Krom had infiltrated the Earth, passing themselves off as Homo sapiens . Humans were surprised and enraged to discover that their Krom visitors had used their time on Earth to purchase samples of particularly enticing Terrestrial products: coffee, sugar, tea, vanilla.
By the time technologically backward Earth had adjusted to the new state of affairs and was finally able to market their unique biological materials to the galaxy … earthlings found that the Krom already controlled the market for the sampled goods. In doing so, the Krom had violated no galactic regulations. Just business. Nothing to see here. Humanity could only react with impotent fury and close off Earth to other aliens.
But the Krom overlooked one potential export:
they took samples of coca instead of cacao. So If the rest of the galaxy wants chocolate, they need to deal directly with Earth. That is, directly with HGB, the company that has a monopoly on the production of chocolate. A monopoly for which they fought the First Contact War (fortunately non-nuclear).
Unfortunately, this was not the end of the matter. For reasons as compelling as those that led to World War One (that is to say, absurd in retrospect) a new global war looms. Who will control the chocolate monopoly? The obvious solution to the disputes: break the monopoly.
One person with the right access could do that. Bo Benitez may be that person. Bo turned her back on a life as an HGB media star on Earth and headed out to the stars, there to work as a celebrity chef. Thanks to her HGB past and her mother’s current status as one of the glitterati, she can gain access to living cacao plants and their precious seeds. Encouraged by her Krom boyfriend Brill, Bo is determined to save Earth from itself.
Stealing living samples is one thing. Surviving the aftermath is quite another.
This is a rather anime-ish universe, one in which the aliens are not all that alien1. I suppose it’s a logical outcome of the premise. If the aliens were not close to human (leaving aside their book-lungs and their ability to consume entire heads in one go), they wouldn’t crave chocolate. They must be closer to humans than dogs; chocolate, in moderate quantity, will kill your dog2.
I like chocolate, so I wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, I have no sense of humour and thus no appreciation for light comedy. Many readers will find Bo’s hi-jinks hilarious; I did not.
Nor was I convinced that Bo was right to steal chocolate, given that her Krom boyfriend was egging her on. One of those Krom. The ones who previously hornswoggled the hapless humans. But Bo is smitten and apparently lacks common sense (which must be true if the plot is to function in plotty fashion). A cautious Bo would never have had the adventures that were supposed to amuse me and did not.
1: A fair number of aliens turn out to be sexually compatible with humans, Granted, given the many entities
and objects with which humans have been known to dally, that’s not all that surprising.
2: I was going to add a comment about how recently humans and dogs diverged. I didn’t actually know when that was, aside from “post-Permian.” Turned out to be a good way to lose myself on various websites.…