A "one million word epic" is posted with 60+ chapters and a note that the author is still writing. Tags include mind control, sci-fi, ESP, space, harem, and then all the non-squicky sex tags. There's obviously no question of whether I will read such a potentially glorious bounty, only how long it will take me to catch up.
The answer turned out to be a little over a month, though I think I probably read about half of it within the past week as the action began to ramp up. Now that I'm up to date, however, where do I even start when reviewing such a behemoth?
TSM is a story which, to me, shows considerable development in the author's literary prowess over time, as noted in the nondescript description. The scope of the story is surely not hinted at to any prospective readers over the first dozen chapters, many of which could almost be sliced out of another epic: Spacer X's 'Six Times a Day'. The intro to harem building is extremely detailed, and it serves as backstory to both important characters and the universe which the story takes place in.
During this time, the author shows little overt interest in developing any conflict or sense of urgency. I'll admit that I was lulled into a sense of complacency, and once the foundation had been sufficiently built up I was not prepared to blast off into Serious Adventures with John and his crew later on. Oh yes, the foreshadowing and plot developments are very real.
In the interest of maintaining a spoiler-free review, I'll skip ahead instead of doing my usual in-depth character review.
Technically, this is both an okay work and a great work. I've given my technical rating (9) based on the more recent chapters, since this is the quality that I expect to see going forward. The early chapters, by contrast, show a distinct lack of editing--though nothing near unreadable. Grammar and spelling aside, what's worthwhile to comment on is the actual and repeated use of foreshadowing: something seen so seldom in erotica that I feel it must be mentioned. To paraphrase wildly, if a gun is shown then it must be used, and Tefler is well aware of this writing maxim. Things which are mentioned briefly even within the very early chapters become significant later on, and no plot turn thus far has occurred without some hinting to prepare the way.
There is a lot of sex in this story, much of it well-written and sufficiently steamy for the genre. Honestly I wasn't sure that anything could ever rival the aforementioned 'Six Times a Day' in terms of making sex seem tedious, but this may come close. The advantages that TSM has here are twofold:
1) All the crew are genuinely likable
2) Tefler takes a note from Jay Cantrell's book and moves some of the sex into the background when it would otherwise become too repetitive
Having mentioned the crew, Tefler does a fantastic job of varying the side character personalities to make them interesting; too often a harem story will slog along due to lack of adequate characterization as more and more members are added, and all the girls blend together in the narrative to become a big, forgettable sex-mass. Not so in TSM, where the author spends considerable time developing backstories for all the heroines and also spaces out their respective entrances to avoid overloading the reader. Once added, crew members continue to remain relevant and show further character development rather than stagnate and fade away into offpage orgies.
'Three Square Meals' is a joy to read regardless of whether you're looking for lots of debauched sex scenes, though enjoying such interludes will certainly enhance the ride. I highly recommend this story, and I'm looking forward to following future chapter updates.
Thanks to the author for deciding to post here on SOL since I doubt I'd have become aware of such a momentous work otherwise!