Review: Wave Rider – Michelle Diener
by Michelle Diener
Series: Verdant String #5
Publication Date: July 13, 2021
Genres: Science Fiction, Romance
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:
Isolated . . . Verdant String scientist, Anja Farucci, is frightened. Her calls for help from her remote coastal research station on the moon Fynian have been going unanswered, and strange things are happening with the leviathan pod she's studying. Out of options, she sets out on the dangerous three-day journey to Rinc, Fynian's only city.
Stranded . . . Cal is a wave rider, and if anyone understands leviathans, it's him, but when Kada, a young leviathan, grabs his boat and strands him on the southern peninsula, Cal is at a loss to understand what is going on.
Thrown together . . . When Cal and Anja cross paths, they discover Anja's communications have been deliberately sabotaged. Someone doesn't want anyone coming or going from the southern peninsula. When the people involved start hurting leviathans, though, neither Cal nor Anja can let it go.
What they don't know, as they get deeper and deeper into the mystery, is that the secret they discover in the cold waters of Fynian's ocean will change them forever.
Wave Rider is the fifth book in the Verdant String series but like the others can be read as a standalone novel.
Content notes: View Spoiler »scifi violence (including gun-like objects), murder, violence against animals, space vehicle crashes « Hide Spoiler
I’d read and enjoyed one book by this author before (the first in her Class 5 series) so I jumped on the chance to try out this one. A scientist and what sounds like a surfer dude running from bad guys? Sounds like my kind of thing! This is fifth in a series, but I read it as a standalone.
First off, a little background. The small moon of Fynian has only one city, Rinc, but has a larger than you’d expect impact on the economy of the Verdant String planets as the only source of druk. Ground up druk has the ability to repel space debris, making it a highly in-demand substance for coating spaceships. The amount available is limited as well, as it’s harvested from the teeth of leviathans, large sea animals, by a group of highly skilled and athletic people called wave riders.
Anja is a scientist sent to a remote outpost to study one pod of leviathans. Due to frequent solar flare activity, communications can be a bit dicey, but when she’s unable to contact Rinc for several days and the pod she’s been studying mysteriously disappears, she decides to risk the multi-day trek back herself. Cal, a wave rider, intercepts one of her transmissions when one of the pod he’s been following inexplicably decides to tow him ashore. While he only met Anja briefly before, once he realizes she’s in danger, he sets out to intercept her and warn her. But Anja and Cal quickly figure out that the missing pod and the men following her are linked, and before they know it they’re caught up in a discovery with galaxy-wide repercussions.
“I’m Fynian. There aren’t a lot of us, and we help each other. This is a rough place. With the solar flares, we have no mobile comms and the weather is dangerous. I wouldn’t leave anyone out here alone, but certainly not someone who’s under attack by strangers and who’s genuinely got the interests of the pods at heart.”
Both Anja and Cal are great characters, brave but still cautious and united in their desire to protect the leviathans. While most of the scientists before Anja were dismissive of the wave riders, Anja’s more open to their observations of their pods. After all, who would know the creatures best than someone who practically becomes a member of their pods? I’m not exactly sure what the leviathans were supposed to resemble, but my mental picture was a bunch of space Nessies. Yes, SPACE DINOSAURS, which if you can’t tell from my all-caps squeeing, was a childhood dream of mine, plesiosaurs in particular being my favorites. So of course I was immediately enamored of the wave riders and their lifestyle!
I can’t say too much more about the plot without going into spoilers, but it was well paced and the villains’ actions were sufficiently twisty to keep me interested. Anja and Cal start out very much in the dark about what the villains want, and bits and pieces are gradually revealed until they’re able to form a picture and take action. They’re very much the underdogs, so there’s a lot of sneaking around and figuring out how to win against much greater (and better armed) forces, and it was a great deal of fun. It did take me a little bit to get up to speed on the politics and past of the Verdant String Coalition and breakaway planets – I assume this was something I’d have known had I read the earlier books in the series – but it was explained well enough that it made sense in the context of this story. It made me very curious to go back and read other books in the series!
As for cons, like the previous book I read from her, this reads more as sci fi with romantic elements than sci-fi romance. There is a romantic relationship between Anja and Cal (and even an “only one bed!” situation) but it takes second place to the overall scifi plot. There’s so much going on that they have very little time to themselves, which was great for the pacing of the mystery but not so great for giving the romance time to bloom. It progresses a little too quickly from “oh hey, I saw you at that bar” to love for my tastes.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and I’ve already gone and bought the first book in the series. Recommended if you, too, get ridiculously excited over space dinosaurs and also are looking for a well-paced and intriguing scifi escapade.