Audiobook Review: Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of Chilling Effect
Publisher: Harper Audio (September 17, 2019)
Length: 14 hrs and 15 mins
Narrator: Almarie Guerra
Chilling Effect turned out to be a bit of a fun surprise, considering my initial concerns over it being too silly and offbeat for my tastes. But in the end, I think author Valerie Valdes struck the perfect town, finding that perfect balance between adventure and humor in her debut space opera. Readers will be treated to a fun romp between the stars in this science fiction tale featuring exotic far-flung planets, fascinating aliens, shadowy crime syndicates, and oh, psychic cats.
Captain Eva Innocente is the protagonist of this story, heading up the crew of the Sirena Negra, a small cargo ship used to run shipping jobs for clients. After being stiffed on her last gig, Eva doesn’t think her day can get any worse, but of course the universe has a way of proving her wrong. Receiving a mysterious call on her private com link, she finds out that an interstellar crime organization known as The Fridge has kidnapped her sister Mari, and they’re demanding an exorbitant ransom for her release. If Eva can’t pay, Mari will be cryogenically frozen and shipped off to a mining planet where she will live out the rest of her days in misery performing hard, brutal labor.
But of course, our protagonist doesn’t have that of kind of money, so she’s forced to make a deal with The Fridge, providing her services to complete a series of missions in exchange for her sister’s release. However, if she tells anyone, all bets are off. Unfortunately, while trying to figure out how to keep the kidnapping a secret from her crew, Eva has a run-in with the lustful emperor of a fish-faced alien race who takes the spurning of his advances much too personally. Now he’ll do anything to have her, even if it means killing an entire space station, and that’s not the kind of attention Eva can afford to have while trying to make clandestine runs for Mari’s kidnappers.
So all in all, I had a good time with this book, and felt that everything from the action to the comedy was on point. I felt it delivered everything a good space opera should, including a heavy dose of intrigue and adventure mixed in with plenty of space faring and exploration. I also loved that the narrative tone was on the lighter side, as this genre tends to get too bogged down by the minutiae of planetary politics, incomprehensible technobabble and too much trivial detail. Happily, none of these are problems in Chilling Effect, making it a good choice for anyone seeking a more accessible or beginner-friendly sci-fi novel to sink their teeth into. It also moves at a good pace and features a charming cast of characters, which helped increase the story’s appeal.
But there’s a downside to having all these elements compete for your attention, especially in the first half of the book. Granted, I never lost interest in the plot, but it did sometimes feel a bit scattered, and more than once I stopped to wonder just when we’ll get to see progress on the main conflict. In that sense, the overall story did take its time to solidify, and at times a lot of the earlier events that took place felt too episodic which tried my patience. This book threw a ton of action in my face, which I appreciated, but it’s not always a good thing. After all, you’re still essentially spinning your wheels if none of it is contributing in a major way to the overall plot.
In general, this novel was also a very shallow experience, but as it is intended to be light and fluffy fare, this wasn’t surprising. Still, I had hoped for a bit more oomph, if nothing else in the comedic side of things because this one was marketed as “hilarious” and “offbeat.” Ultimately, I can’t say I found much of it to be laugh-worthy, as we’re mostly dealing with countless pop culture references and a boatload of other throwaway gags. But while I am glad that the story wasn’t over-the-top in its silliness, a part of me still wishes it had been more memorable. You’re not going to get a whole lot of world-building, character development, or to be honest, any kind of explanation for what’s going on. Still, nothing wrong with this one being a pure escapism read, so long as you go in knowing what to expect.
All told, I found Chilling Effect to be a decent and fun-filled space opera that doesn’t take itself too seriously. By the time the sequel comes out, if I still remember most of the story and the characters, I just might check it out for another feel-good pick-me-up read!
Audiobook Comments: Almarie Guerra was a good choice for narrator, giving life to Eva’s multilayered personality. Whether our protagonist is being thoughtful and prudent, or snarky and impulsive, Guerra did a great job portraying Eva in all of her moods.