Chain Reaction by Zoë Archer is a combination of space opera and science fiction romance. And it’s a combination that blasts some serious fun, especially for those who enjoy love stories of the hotshot vs. nerd persuasion.
“Stainless” Celene Jur is the hotshot pilot. She’s not just a member of the elite 8th Wing, she’s the stainless steel legend that everyone looks up to. But legends aren’t ever allowed a moment to cut loose and be human, not even while recovering from being captured and nearly sold into slavery.
Nils Calder is not just a geek, he is proud to be the best engineer in the division proudly known as NerdWorks. Nils has reverse engineered the device that disabled Celene’s Black Wraith ship’s previously unhackable controls and caused her capture. The secret of the Black Wraith controls is the only thing keeping the 8th Wing alive in its fight against PRAXIS.
Nils has also discovered who developed that device: a former NerdWorks engineer who went, not just rogue, but crazy and mercenary into the bargain.
The device hasn’t been sold to PRAXIS. Not yet. There’s still time for 8th Wing to track down the designer and remove the threat.
Celene Jur needs to lead this mission. She has to erase that feeling of powerlessness that overcame her when the device was activated. Wiping the designer off the face of the cosmos is the only way she can accomplish that. The threat to 8th Wing must be eliminated. And “Stainless” Jur is the best.
Nils Calder is the only engineer who can track the device. The rogue was damn good, but not quite good enough to beat him. But Nils needs to be on the mission. The rogue’s base signal is constantly changing. And his security will be a very tough engineering puzzle. Jur needs to take an engineer. She needs to take him.
But this is a stealth mission, not a raid. The Phantom ship they are taking only holds a crew of two. Jur wants to take another soldier, not a nerd. But when Nils passes all of her tests, Celene discovers that geeks can be soldiers every bit as much as pilots can. Maybe more.
But can she go back to being “Stainless” Jur after she gets used to being just human?
Escape Rating B+: If science fiction romance blasts your jets, you’ll enjoy this. Chain Reaction is set in the same universe as Archer’s Collision Course, and I would recommend reading that first to get more of the world-building, but the story of Chain Reaction does stand on its own.
Chain Reaction is about the partnership that develops between Celene and Nils. Each of them has to step out of their comfort zone to become true partners to each other, and watching them do that is a terrific rocketship ride.
Celene is afraid that Nils is interested in the legend and not the woman. It’s happened to her too many times before. Nils is worried that if they do manage to have a relationship during the mission, as bad an idea as that is, as soon as the mission is over, she’ll go back to not noticing he exists. Pilots and Nerds do not mix in 8th Wing. Both their fears are realistic, and it takes work, as it should, for them to get past them. I love it when a happy ending is earned. And so richly deserved.