Title: Chilling Effect
Author: Valerie Valdes
Series: Chilling Effect #1
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 39
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Orbit , via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
A hilarious, offbeat debut space opera that skewers everything from pop culture to video games and features an irresistible foul-mouthed captain and her motley crew, strange life forms, exciting twists, and a galaxy full of fun and adventure.
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.
First let me say if you came here because it says Psychic Cats on the cover you are going to be disappointed. While the cute, with hypnotising abilities, the kitties play a very minor role in the plot. Serving more of a role of fun clutter occasionally referred to than having any actual purpose. So if you are only interested in the cats you will probably loose interest in this fairly quickly, which is sad as this really is a fun romp through space and great if you are looking for a lighter read that will make you chuckle.
I found Chilling Effect to be a really entertaining and lighthearted space opera. It is filled with tropes and twists on those tropes in the best way. We follow a slightly maverick crew of a run down small freighter just trying to eek out a living on the fringes of space with all the banter that produces. When of course things go wrong and our Captain is forced to choose between rescuing Family or putting her found family of her crew in danger. These dangerous missions get more and more bizarre as we find ourselves on a whole slew of different planets or space stations.
The world is really inventive. As this isn’t trying to be hard sci-fi in any way it fully embraced the silly. It was a little bit campy and little bit Dr who-ish in the multitude or weird and wonderful aliens we got to encounter, just with more swearing. This to me was the most fun about the book. As it was broken down into lots of mini missions we really got a feel of a vast universe Valdes had created. It was colourful, cheesey and humourous with tongue and cheek swipes at the various tropes and character archetypes. It made me smile and I enjoyed it.
The characters also had strong personalities that were likeable and fun to read about. Vakar the engineer was super interesting and how he communicated through smell. Pink, was a great ships medic, not taking anyone’s shit but also caring deeply about them all, just as ready to jump into battle. I really liked that there was a heavy focus on the mental health of the crew from Pink. Eva our MC definitely had a growth arc though I wouldn’t call it revolutionary. Leroy, the muscle on board, having PTSD was really interesting and I think well handled when it was spoken about but I do feel it could have been a more explored topic, especially when they find themselves in trouble again. I do wish we got a bit more from the rest of the crew at times. It would have been nice to get more depth into the back stories. Places and events would come up in the dialogue but we would never actually find out about them and what they meant in terms of the characters past. They were still a fun mix of characters and a lot of the secondary characters really added to the atmosphere and banter.
We do have a bad case of multiple ending syndrome where we came to several good closure points but then one more mission happened to the point the actual end of the book was a little meh. It kind of just left us back were we started but with a little character growth on Eva’s part and that was a little disappointing.
I think what I liked about this book is it reminded me of a lot of things, i enjoy. It was very much like the St Mary’s Chronicles by Jodi Taylor in its structure of little mini missions, the cast being complete disaster magnets and the banter. It also had real Mass Effect vibes to it. Like what if Fem-Shep never joined the Allience and instead was a cargo hauler?, all the way down to the News reels in the Elevator scenes. This kinda made me giggle, its fun and playful Sci-fi and I enjoyed it. I just wish it was a little stronger with its overarching plot and ending. Overall, this is just fun and light-hearted and I think worth the read.