Prime Deceptions by Valerie Valdes
Series: Chilling Effect
Genre: Science Ficion
Maturity Level: 5
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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?
This series is such a blast to read! Chilling Effect was one of my favorite books of 2019, and Prime Deceptions was just as good. Both books are as smart as they are funny, and as thoughtful as they are exciting.
Having spent the last book chipping away at our heroine, Eva’s, hard exterior, her character really has the opportunity to shine in Prime Deceptions. A closer look at her past helps the reader to understand how she came to be so jaded yet still so committed to making the world a better place. Where the last book was about Me-Too, this book focused more on mental health and trauma, as Eva is forced to confront her worst triggers. (Which, btw, will almost certainly not trigger you.) While I am not qualified to speak on how authentically these experiences were portrayed, the whole book felt so genuine and sensitive.
In learning about Eva’s past the reader also has the chance to deeply explore the shades of grey that can sometimes accompany doing something terrible. A younger Eva made a huge mistake. And while her ignorance doesn’t excuse her from blame, it does help the reader to forgive her and accept that she had changed.
And yet, nothing ever got too heavy.
Because this is, at the end of the day, a fun sci-fi book. It’s never going to win the Nebula award because it isn’t “serious” enough or whatever, but it *will* make you laugh and keep you on the edge of your seat. I compared the previous book to John Scalzi because it’s so adventurous and readable, but it’s so darn good that an Andy Weir comp might be more appropriate. But honestly, I don’t think anyone is doing anything quite like Valdes. What she’s created is such a delightful blend of hard sci-fi and pure fun that is utterly unique.
Other pluses to this book compared to book one. The science is explored a bit more, so that I feel like I understand how this world works. The psychic cats get a bit more page time, and they are a JOY. The diversity of the side-characters is a little more obvious, including a character I didn’t previously realize was trans and a character who uses a wheelchair. Or, space chair, or whatever they called it. Finally, Eva’s mother is in this book and I adored her.
The only thing that was a little disappointing about this book for me is that Eva and Vakar’s relationship isn’t as swoony. Now that the will-they-won’t-they flirtatious energy is gone, their chemistry isn’t as obvious. But their relationship is so strong and supportive, it was wonderful in a different way.
Seriously, this series is SO amazing. If you enjoy science fiction even a little bit, I strongly encourage you to pick up Chilling Effect. I hope that Valdes writes more and that Harper Voyager continues to publish it, because I will read this series until there is nothing left. And considering how rarely I read a whole series, y’all, that is saying something.
P.S. This book has hardly any reviews on Goodreads, so if you could visit mine and like and/or comment I have the chance to be at/near the top which has never happened. I WOULD SUPER APPRECIATE IT! ❤