Review: Quantum by Jess Anastasi

Review: Quantum by Jess AnastasiQuantum (Atrophy, #2) by Jess Anastasi
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Atrophy #2
Pages: 325
Published by Entangled Publishing on August 8th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

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.

My Review:

If you are bemoaning the lack of Firefly in your life, take heart. Quantum and the Atrophy universe are here to fill that Serenity-shaped void in your heart. Get ready for a wild ride on the Imojenna with Rian Sherron, as well as a heart-stopping adventure following Zander Graydon and Mae Petros as they dodge shipwrecks and shape-shifting aliens to stay alive.

At the beginning, it feels like there are two stories here. One is almost a classic survival tale. Someone is out to kill Zander Graydon. They just keep missing. Well, almost missing. Whoever it is doesn’t have any qualms about collateral damage. But then, the shapeshifting alien Reider think we are about as intelligent as chimpanzees, or maybe less. Alien scientists don’t care how many lab rat equivalents they kill on their way to global domination.

But as Zander thwarts an assassination attempt in a public bathroom, followed by a clearly engineered shuttle crash followed by a missile strike, it’s hard for him not to get the message that someone is out to get him. The problem is that he’s not sure if that person isn’t his new Admiral’s Assistant, Mae Petros. He knows that Mae is keeping some big secret from him, he just doesn’t know what that secret is.

Mae is on a mission – not for any of the human military agencies, but for Rian Sherron, the leader of a motley crew of space salvagers, on a one man mission to eradicate the shapeshifting aliens from our galaxy. Rian saw his old buddy Zander’s name on a list of potential Reider swap-targets, and Rian wants to get there first.

Instead, Mae gets there just in time to help Zander survive those repeated Reidar assassination attempts. And to fall for the man she’s still worried might be an alien copy. Not that he trusts her either.

And just when they think they are out of the woods, literally as well as figuratively, it all goes pear-shaped. And stays that way until Mae, Zander and Rian can finally join forces. Just in time to turn Rian’s one-man crusade into a little fleet of berserkers set to finally take a little bit of this battle to the enemy. If they can just figure out who they are.

atrophy by jess anastasiEscape Rating B+: At first it seems as if this story is only tangentially related to the one in the first book, Atrophy. But when the band gets together, the single narrative becomes much clearer. So definitely read Atrophy first.

Quantum itself almost feels like two books. The first half, the crash and rescue, is one story that could have ended on one hell of a cliffhanger. The second story really gets going when Zander and Mae finally make their way to Rian’s Imojenna. The story switches from a fairly tight, fall in love under threat of death story to the much broader arc of the series, which is a story about taking back the galaxy from the alien infiltration. That bit is going to take several books to resolve, and we only see the first real skirmish here.

We also see a lot more of Rian Sherron’s tortured relationship with the priestess/sorceress Ella. She’s clearly this universe’s Inara Serra, although I think we will finally get to see where that relationship would have gone if the series had continued. Eventually. In the meantime, we see a lot of Rian’s demons and Ella’s attempts to, if not exorcise them, at least calm them down a bit. She’s only partially successful at the best of times.

And now for a couple of little quibbles. I mentioned in my review of Atrophy that the use of made-up profanity takes me out of the story every time. It’s not just that “frecking” does not feel like a reasonable substitute for “fucking” as profanity, but that the change sounds wrong to my ear, especially when used in the profane combination of “frecking Christ”. This is not a comment on religion or the lack thereof, but if “Christ” has survived the centuries as an epithet, then so have the words “fuck” and “fucking”. Especially in the context where “shite”, currently used in the UK and Ireland for “shit” has also survived the ages. People do cuss. Let them.

Second quibble. Military titles. It would feel less jarring if the author had either used something completely made up, and provided a glossary, or used what we have now, on a reasonable extension that military ranks serve a purpose. Weird combinations like “Captain Admiral” and “Lieutenant Marshall” dropped me out of the story every time, and confused me as well. Where does a Lieutenant Marshal fit into the hierarchy? Is it like a Lieutenant in the military, or Marshal as in Sheriff?

Which did not stop me from licking the whole damn thing up with a spoon. I enjoy this series as much for what it is trying to be as what it actually is. But then, I really do miss Firefly. And since there’s no more Firefly, I’ll be waiting eagerly for book 3 in the Atrophy series, Diffraction, hopefully before the end of the year!

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