Book Review – ‘Prime Deceptions’ (#2 Chilling Effect) by Valarie Valdes

This has it all, like a mash-up of ‘Firefly’ and ‘A Long way to a Small Angry Planet.’

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 448

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra find themselves once again on the fringe of populated space—and at the center of a raging covert war. When Eva’s sister asks for help locating a missing scientist, promises of a big paycheck and a noble cause convince Eva to take the job despite lingering trust issues.

With reluctant assistance from her estranged mother, Eva and her crew follow the missing scientist’s trail across the universe, from the costume-filled halls of a never-ending convention to a dangerous bot-fighting arena. They ultimately find themselves at the last place Eva wants to see again—Garilia—where she experienced her most shameful and haunting failure.

To complete her mission and get paid, Eva must navigate a paradise embroiled in a rebellion, where massive forests and pristine beaches hide psychic creatures and pervasive surveillance technology. Can she find her quarry while avoiding the oppressive local regime, or will she be doomed to repeat past mistakes when her dark deeds come to light?

The sequel to ‘Chilling Effect’ brings back the problematic Hispanic Captain Eva and her crew on yet another outrageous adventure complete with psychic cats and a lingering need for a cup of coffee. There is a lot to love about this series.

I had to really think on this… why it was so hard for me to fall into this book, I mean, I really enjoyed the debut in this series. So what was going on? The protagonist. We all know those people: the cocky, always right, sarcastic person, and while entertaining, they are well… a little frustrating and grating to be around. Immature. Hard to relate to or sympathize with. And that’s what we have with our foulmouthed Captain Eva… and why I kept putting the book down. Because though I enjoyed the jokes, she bored me. Not to mention the constant breaks into Hispanic that I had to google translate to get the joke or understand the context. I was constantly being pulled out of the narrative because I have no reference point for the language or culture… way to isolate your reader. I love representation, but this did not give me access to the story.

The second, after a bit of thought, was the info dumping. I’d rather experience the world through a character or dialogue (or another storytelling device) than paragraphs of explanation slowing down the pace and detracting from the ambience of the moment.

I can tell the author had a lot of fun writing this. There is a lot of detail. We get plenty of technology, alien culture, and politics which is great, but it felt a bit too much and bogged down the pacing. 

Our protagonist also gets thrown a lot of obstacles… which are joyous, sometimes hilarious, and interesting, but it felt like Captain Eva was stumbling through the plot rather than driving it forward.

The quality of the paperback copy was much lower than that of the debut… I don’t know if it was because of the page count or cost cutting, but it did have a cheap feeling to it, especially the cover material. But I still adore the cover art: Julie Dillon is a master at her craft.

So this is a difficult book to review for me – it has so many things I praise and look for in my reads, and Valerie Valdes has a gritty, entertaining, and comedic writing style – but I felt a little excluded from the narrative and bogged down with pace and detail. I’m definitely going to be following this author and keen to see what she releases next. On the bright side, with the constant need for me to translate text and look up culture references, I’m getting an education on the Hispanic elements of protagonist Eva and that means easier immersion into the story if this series continues. The story does feel episodic in the Chilling Effect universe, so who knows where Valdes can take this franchise. ‘Prime Deceptions’ wraps up nicely, but there were enough hanging plot points and teasers that can lead to a sequel. As challenging as it has been to read so far, I am invested in the Chilling Effect series, love some of the periphery characters and have a love/hate relationship with Captain Eva. And well, authors grow, so Valdes writing can only skyrocket from here and I am intrigued. No word of another sequel as yet, but I’m going to be keeping my ear to the ground.

I have a lot of praise for this book, but it just did not marry well with my personal experiences. And yes, I’d still recommend this to my friends who love sci-fi and sassy female characters on a hijinks adventure.

Overall feeling: so many things…

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Chilling Effect’ (#1 Chilling Effect) by Valarie Valdes

If Hans Solo was a swearing Hispanic Woman aboard the Firefly…

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 448

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.

To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.

Valerie Valdes has an innate ability to craft tone and ambience with her writing, she can also create amazing action scenes. I was truly glued to the page with those aspects of her story.  I would have liked to see the characters fleshed out a bit more, they weren’t flat, but I didn’t feel an emotional connection to them, though she did map out their motivations really well.

There were so many aliens mentioned in this book (yay for alien rep) I had difficulty keeping them all straight, and to add to that, some of them barely got a description… it was a bit of a messy whirlwind around this aspect, and I would have loved to see her take her time and introduce us to the species properly – or at least have an illustration plate somewhere in the book with an artist’s rendering of the alien species for reference.

The tone of the book and the alien descriptions gave me more of a M.I.B. vibe

We get many plot points that are introduced in the first few chapters –the psychic cats, the Proarkhe technology, the rescue of her kidnapped sister, the hindrance of entitled sex pest Glorious Apotheosis, the mention of a unfortunate past incident (Garilia), and a nefarious mafia style organisation ‘The Fridge’ which our Captain Eva is determined to overthrow… none of these plot points is resolved in ‘Chilling Effect,’ well one is, but being completely circumvented and made completely mute. So the story structure itself was a complete shemozzle. Yes, ‘Chilling Effect’ is a highly entertaining read, one a thoroughly enjoyed, but it did not really go anywhere. It was like an intergalactic road trip with side adventures and hijinks, but the book ends before the protagonist reaches their destination.

Valerie Valdes writing is the only thing that redeemed this novel in my eyes.

A slight annoyance for me though, there is quite a lot of language – but it is part of our rough around the edges Captain. We also get a lot of Spanish… which I had to constantly use Google translate to see what I was missing… with varied success. This fact pulled me from the narrative and set up a language barrier. Granted some to the translated phrases are hilarious, and I now can swear like a sailor in Spanish, but the last thing I want to do when reading a book is to be constantly translating parts and slowing the pace and shattering the illusion. I love the representation of the culture (and language,) but maybe if there were an * and a translation at the bottom of the page, or at least an appendix with all the phrases translated at the back of the book, it would have been a more accessible read. But in its current form, the text proved a hindrance that outweighed my delight at the representation.

Captain Eva is a swearing Hispanic woman that takes no crap from anyone. Think Hans Solo from Star Wars – sassy and is not opposed to breaking the rules. The presence of the psychic cats softens her a little, and with how she relates to aliens (even on an intimate level) I’d describe here as pansexual.

The pacing was surprisingly good considering the plot was meandering, and that science fiction is prone to info-dumping. We literally go from one action scene to the next, or a comedy scene without lengthy transition scenes; Valdes has a fantastic ability to create flow and expert transitions.

The Proarkle Tech was not explored enough, even if this is an over-arching plotline for the series; so too for the psychic cats, The Fridge, and well, Glorious. The latter just seemed to be a comedic punchline in the end, I don’t know why this especially wasn’t brought to some conclusion in ‘Chilling Effect.’ It was literally left hanging in the air. I think if we had gotten a more solid story structure, some of the introduced elements resolved, I would have rated this much higher. I feel I’m being generous, though I feel Valdes writing style and comedic timing were right up there with the best of them. This is a soft recommendation from me because it feels incomplete, but was so much fun to read.

Overall feeling: Fun and funny but a little frustrating.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookquotes

#BQ Chilling Effect by Casey Carlisle

I am so excited to add this to my ‘to read’ pile. It sounds like a lot of fun… space, alien overlords, sarcastic humor. Right. Up. My. Alley.  Stay tuned for a review coming soon.

Anyone have recommendations for a books similar to ‘Chilling Effect?’

#bookporn #coverlove

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I’ve started organising monthly stacks for my TBR to inspire me to read more and ensure I am getting a variety of genres (plus finishing off some series that have been sitting on my shelves for way too long) Here’s a peek at some of the titles for the 3rd quarter of 2020.

How to you motivate yourself to read? Mood reading, stacks on the bedside table, read-a-thons…