Diffraction by Jess Anastasi

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Fantasy/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction 30th November 2016
Diffraction by Jess AnastasiDiffraction by Jess Anastasi
Series: Atrophy, #3
Published by Entangled: Select Otherworld on January 2nd 2017
Pages: 315
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four-stars

After his unusual reaction to a weapon, Commando Varean Donnelly is accused of being a shape-shifting alien and imprisoned onboard the Imojenna. Sure, he has abilities he keeps hidden from everyone—including the gorgeous doc examining him—because the government makes sure people as different as him disappear. For good.
Imojenna doctor Kira Sasaki knows there’s something different about the handsome commando the captain’s thrown in their brig. She doesn’t think he’s Reidar, although he might have been a victim of their cruel experiments. But when Kira learns the stubborn commando’s racial make-up, she finds herself torn between defending him to Captain Rian Sherron and his crew or urging Varean to escape while he still can.

Apart from Jess Anastasi’s ending note that the long-awaited Rian/Ella story is nowhere in sight, it’s glorious to be back with the Imojenna crew and under the wiles of the volatile major captain, who still very much remains a lynchpin in the building action and the fabulous overarching plot of finding an alien species hell bent on infiltrating the galaxy with their stealthy shape-shifting methods. His mysterious past eludes him as much as it eludes us even each chapter unravels him a little more and I can’t seem to shake the feeling that even the leading romantic pair in this story can’t eclipse the importance of one man who finally seems to have turned a corner by the end of the book.

As much as it is about Rian’s continuing quest to destroy the aliens who’d destroyed him, ‘Diffraction’ however, is also about an AF commando who isn’t what he seems and the ship’s doctor who takes a shine to him. But apart from me wondering about the state of Rian’s liver from the constant drinking, there’s a mystery of Varean Donnelly’s heritage to solve and a backstory for Kira Sasaki that add some depth to this pairing. It’s nonetheless a slow-burn, a nuanced account of developing attraction and the measure of denial that seem to parallel the bond between Rian and Ella. The characters are not above eye-rolling moments though, especially as Kira gives into inexplicable TSTL moments when she pushes Varean away in the belief he would be better off with his kind then treats him rather coldly after that.

With Anastasi’s books as always, the blurb reveals just a facet of the fascinating universe and its politics and for this reason ‘Diffraction’ doesn’t function well as a standalone. Every chapter came as a surprise because I couldn’t see what was coming at all: secondary character deaths, new additions to the crew and many fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants moments, with several twists and turns written with such swagger that I wondered if I’d found myself in an amalgamation of all the classic sci-fi series (and the latest Marvel offerings) that I’d binged on in the last decade. Overall, I think the bottom-line here is that it has been such fun, if only to be part of the developing action and the build-up to what might look like a spectacular battle between the bad guys and the good guys…should the series be taken that far.

four-stars

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