Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes
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.
This is one of the most fun Sci-Fi books I’ve read in a long time, and I really enjoy a good ol’ fashioned just-for-fun Sci-Fi romp. If Becky Chambers wrote a John Scalzi book, the result would be something like this.
Eva is your pretty typical adventure-hero. She’s brash, cocky, and has a troubled past. In Eva’s case, she’s definitely dealing with some PTSD, though we never learn through the course of the book what really happened. But, like any classic hero, she’s got a heart of gold. She cares for her crew and her family, and she wants to do the right thing. What made Eva stand out from the swaggering crowd was her Latinx culture. It’s not common to read books set in the age of space colonization when humans maintain their distinct earthly cultures, but I loved how connected she was with her past. It made her so much more relatable than the generic culture-less characters I’m used to reading.
Chilling Effect has a nice blend between exciting action sequences and quieter, more personal moments. Eva’s relationships with her crew members are vivid and authentic. In particular I loved her romantic relationship (though I’m not saying with who!) and her friendship with her long-time best friend and shipmate. All of Eva’s relationships are rocky, and she makes plenty of mistakes along the way, but like in any good romp nobody ever hates her for too long.
Good Sci-Fi comments on something in our society today. In this case it was victim-shaming, especially by the victim. A lot of not awesome things happen to Eva, and she often wants to place the blame on herself. Throughout the novel she is always reminding herself “I’m not the person shooting blast cannons at innocents.” She struggles with feelings of guilt for causing the actions of others, and Valdes was very affirming in her status as a victim and made sure the reader knows it isn’t your fault if you say no to a dude for sex and then he blows up and entire space-station in retaliation. For example.
Also, psychic cats. ❤
I love Sci-Fi that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and Chilling Effect was SO MUCH FUN to read. I don’t say this about a series often, but I can’t wait to read more. I highly recommend Chilling Effect to Sci-Fi fans everywhere, but especially to people who said they wanted to like The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet but “couldn’t get into it” or thought it was too slow.