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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

Quantum by Jess Anastasi

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Fantasy/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction/ Syfy/ Syfy Romance 20th July 2016
Quantum by Jess AnastasiQuantum by Jess Anastasi
Series: Atrophy #2
Published by Entangled Publishing on August 8th 2016
Pages: 295
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four-stars

Someone wants Captain Admiral Zander Graydon dead. Like yesterday. Zander’s convinced his attractive assistant knows more than she’s willing to say, and if he can stop running long enough, he’ll find out exactly what she’s hiding. Lieutenant Marshal Mae Petros is determined to keep her CO safe. Before she tips her hand, however, Mae has to figure out if the alluring man she’s protecting is the real Captain Admiral Graydon. Or an alien shape-shifting imposter.
On the run and no one to trust…not even each other.
Captain Admiral Zander Graydon has seen a lot of action, but almost getting killed three times in one day is pushing it. Only the company of his new assistant, Lieutenant Marshal Mae Petros, makes things a little easier to swallow. Except the delectable Lieutenant Marshal Petros is hiding a number of secrets, and her presence might have something to do with the continued attempts on his life.
It’s no accident Lieutenant Marshal Mae Petros finds herself in the firing line alongside the charming but very off-limits Captain Admiral Graydon. She’s taken the job as the admiral’s assistant to determine if a shape-shifting alien has killed the CO and assumed his form. Whether the admiral is human or not, Mae finds herself getting way too close to him as they run for their lives.
Military to the core, Mae and Zander will have to overcome their suspicions of each other to work together, when they realize the fate of the entire universe is at stake.

As with quite a few of Jess Anastasi’s books, I’ve learnt the hard way that the blurb is always insufficient in mapping out just how little it says of her expansive universe and the huge number of things that she’s got going on in it. Zander Graydon and Mae Petros might be the pairing that’s given priority in ‘Quantum’, but it isn’t too long before I’m sucked into the bigger picture that’s laid out here: an insidious breed of shape-shifting aliens have infiltrated planets and key governmental posts for reasons we aren’t quite too clear about yet and one man’s near-insane bid to wage war on them with a crazy ‘shoot first and then think’ policy in order to purge the monsters from his mind.

Rian Sherron – that cynical, snarky war-(anti)hero always on the verge of losing his self-control – is that much pivotal to the galaxy’s apparent survival. Yet what’s so unusual about this series thus far is that he hasn’t been cast as the romantic lead yet, even as everything revolves around this larger-than-life, brash and tortured character.

If ‘Atrophy’ lays out a dysfunctional cast of the Imojenna’s crew, ‘Quantum’ builds on the growing conflict in the wider universe and the burgeoning relationships between Rian and Ella (whose book Ms. Anastasi steadfastly refuses to release until they’ve maxed out their UST) and Zander and Mae, with only a little more focus on the latter pair. I have to admit Zander/Mae interested me a lot less than Rian/Ella, the latter of whom I thought was wimpy at times with her secret-keeping and the evasiveness she kept up with Zander even when it was clear she could trust him. But my preference or personal bias for heroines who put themselves out there – physically and emotionally – comes through clearly here and I did find myself more than disappointed when all Mae did was to cloister up, detach herself and leave the rift she caused to widen instead.

But I’ll say again that ‘Quantum’ is so much more than just Zander/Mae; I can’t help but think of them as just another relationship that’s one of many in this series that’s headed for an explosive climax, in all its irreverent and irrepressible glory. And that’s just the thing which is getting me moist with excitement, along with the anticipation of Rian’s story.

Thus far, I’ve been thrown for a few loops, laughed at the dry but engaging banter, been taken on an action-packed ride through some twists and turns I never saw coming and pretty much went down the long slide to a place no reader wants to go because it reeks of desperation: stalking the author for updates and news on the next book.

four-stars

Atrophy by Jess Anastasi

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction/ Syfy/ Syfy Romance 29th October 2015
Atrophy by Jess AnastasiAtrophy by Jess Anastasi
Series: Atrophy #1
Published by Entangled: Select Otherworld on December 7th 2015
Pages: 329
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Goodreads
four-stars


No one on Erebus escapes alive...

Twelve years on the prison planet Erebus makes a man long for death. The worst part for Tannin Everette is that he was framed for murder. He's innocent. When the ship Imojenna lands for emergency repairs, Tannin risks everything to escape...only to find himself face to face with the captain's undeniably gorgeous sister.
Zahli Sherron isn't planning on turning Tannin in. In fact, she actually believes him. Sure, he's sexy as every kind of sin, but he's no criminal—so she hides him. But no one escapes from Erebus and lives to tell about it. With every day that passes, Zahli further risks the lives of the entire crew...even as she falls in love with a man she can never have for herself.

A malfunction gets an old, rickety ship onto a prison planet for emergency repairs, the last place any sane person wants to do. But Captain Rian Sherron isn’t the sanest person around, so he does it, setting a chain of events in motion that ends up with a stowaway on board who not only finds a place as a tech hacker on board but also some steamy times with Rian’s sister.

While Tannin and Zahli are well-conceived characters, I’m drawn to the compelling way Jess Anastasi portrays the hard, scarred and so-in-need-of-redemption Rian and the unwitting heat he generates with a priestess he tries to hard to keep away from.


But the book is so much more what than the blurb says; to say that it’s a story featuring an escaped convict and a woman on a ship would be to shortchange it totally, because the Atrophy actually reads like the season opener of a series that is getting me moist with excitement. There’s a motley crew to get to know, multiple conflicts waiting to unfold, shady & tortured pasts to uncover and loads of UST to strip away (Rian and Ella, please) – all of which remind me of Firefly on steroids set in the ever-faulty Millennium Falcon, full of cynical humour, spiffy dialogue and all kinds of made behaviour. The title of the book itself seems a fitting metaphor for the sheer amount of instability we’re thrust into, describing inexorable decline of Rian and of the crumbling galaxy he and his crew inhabit, until Ms. Anastasi (w)rites those wrongs away.

four-stars
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