Review: Prime Deceptions – Valerie Valdes
by Valerie Valdes
Series: Chilling Effect #2
Also in this series: Chilling Effect
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
The lovably flawed crew of La Sirena Negra and their psychic cats return in this fast-paced and outrageously fun science-fiction novel, in which they confront past failures and face new threats in the far reaches of space from the author of the critically acclaimed Chilling Effect.
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?
Content warnings: View Spoiler »scifi violence, war crimes, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal ideation « Hide Spoiler
I am still deeply in love with the cover art for this series. The Cat floating in space! The neon text! The gorgeous colors! I would totally hang this up near my bookcases. This is the second in the Chilling Effect series, so there a!re spoilers for the first book in this review
I came out of the last book disappointed because I was expecting something, well, not as dark, plus I’m not a huge fan of plot lines that revolve around the main character lying to everyone. So I wrote my review of Chilling Effect and figured it would fade to the back of my memory. Instead, I would randomly remember a scene and start giggling – Tim, “well, actually,” the cats. And I kept recommending it to my friends, random people I would meet at the bookstore, my librarian, etc. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m as much of an idiot as Eva, and my reread prior to jumping into this book confirms it. It’s an amazingly funny book with a messy heroine and a sweet romance – and that description applies to Prime Deceptions as well.
“You are so violent, I swear,” Pink said.
“Violence isn’t always the answer,” Eva said. “I just ask a lot of violent questions.”
We jump right back into the action a few months after the end of the last book. Eva’s still messy, and she’s done some things she’s not particularly proud of, but my God, is she trying to do better. The crew of La Sirena Negra are her family, so when a mission comes in from the Forge – the secretive agency that Eva’s sister Mari works for – to find a crewmate’s brother that’s supposedly been kidnapped, Eva can’t say no, even if it does have uncomfortable echoes of what happened the last time she went looking for her own supposedly kidnapped sibling.
“You gonna forbid me from other fun stuff, too, like punching people and setting things on fire?”
“Those things are not fun, you anarchist.”
“Is anarchy bad now? I’ll update my translator nanites.”
What I particularly loved about this book is that Eva’s learning to work in a team – passing decisions by Pink, her co-captain, and making use of Vakar, Min, and Sue’s talents. She still agonizes about putting them in danger, but she’s slowly realizing that holding back information and making decisions for them is, well, not cool. The relationships between the crew continue to develop, though my favorite is the romance between Eva and Vakar. They’re just so ridiculously sweet together! Of course, the crew end up haring off to new destinations and running into new trouble. There’s also some cameos from old favorite and “well, actually” not so favorite characters. In addition, the plot feels tighter in this one because each mission they go on is in service of finding Sue’s brother.
“Ultimately, we each must make our own choices. Whether to fight with words or weapons. Whether to fight at all.”
One of the best things about these books is that they take scifi tropes, relentlessly poke fun at them, and then reinvent them into something thought provinkingly new and even more hilarious. The main item in this book is the Pocket Pals – or Ball Buddies, as Eva insists on referring to them – that are a ridiculously hilarious riff on Pokemon. I’m sure there’s more references I missed, but my personal favorite was a one-liner about Bioshock that had me spit out my tea. That’s not to say that it’s all light. Woven into the humor are musings on the prime directive, redemption and how scars – physical and mental – affect us. In the last book, we learned that one of Eva’s major regrets – and the reason she swore to never lie to her crew like her old captain lied to her – was her actions on Garilia, though what those were was never revealed. In this book, we finally found out, and it’s a doozy – and it makes me hate Tito and her dad even more. Eva’s got some serious PTSD from that event and I thought the way it was handled was brilliant.
“It’s nice to be appreciated,” she said. “It’s nicer to get paid. Adiós, hasta luego.”
Overall, this easily gets 4.5 stars, and it’s my favorite science fiction read fo the year so far. Highly recommended!