CHILLING EFFECT by Valerie Valdes.
Orbit Books. p/b. £8.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Captain Eva Innocente has taken great pains to assemble her crew and keep La Sirena Negra in flight condition. As a captain she is fair and efficient, if at times reckless, but they stay loyal to a fault. Captain Eva may have gladly accepted this latest mission but she did not expect to spend most of it chasing cats around a spaceship. Without all 20 present and correct there will be no payment, and so, with great frustration, her hunt continues.
Tito Santiago was once her boss. Now he is just the bearer of bad news. Eva’s buyer cannot pay. She finds herself stuck with 20 liable-to-escape felines, who may or may not be purposefully trying to sabotage her ship and endanger her crew, as well as a pressing need for income. And when a call comes in on the emergency frequency, Eva knows there is more bad news to come.
The Fridge, a secret organisation striking terror into the hearts of many. Hadn’t her father always warned her to stay away from it? So in classic Eva style there is nothing to be done but tangle with The Fridge and try to save her sister before it is too late.
Chilling Effect is a fun space opera romp from the offset, told through the eyes of a protagonist who is delightfully forward and delightfully foul-mouthed. Eva’s no-nonsense approach to life is as entertaining as it is both effective and defective, propelling her from one episode to the next in sometimes-catastrophic style, yet somehow everything seems to work out all right in the end. At least it has until now.
The story follows Eva as she travels from bad situation to worse in a bid to stave off kidnappers, hold onto relationships and flee a powerful emperor, who for some reason has decided to pursue her across space at vast expense to innocent lives and treasuries. Slowly her family situation and background is fed to the reader to shed more light on how 15-year-old Eva who left home to become a ‘spacer’ ended up where she is in command of her own crew and accepting dubious missions for pay.
Valdes gives us a deliciously action-rich page-turner with a unique set of characters who all hold their own on the page – just not quite as much of their own as Eva herself. The world-building and characterisation here are excellent and another of Eva’s quests will be very much welcomed in future.