Space soap operas are a favourite genre of mine, some kind of guilty pleasure. So I’ve read quite a few of them over the years – care to find out what makes Chilling Effect stand out?
The first thing that comes to mind is the setting. Usually, space operas exist in a world that is pretty much dominated by English or American cliches. It’s like the Royal British Navy took to space. Everything is centered around English.
Joss Whedon broke that formula by incorporating an Asian influence in his Firefly universe, and that changed the overall feeling. Valerie is doing the exact same thing – with Spanish instead of Asian. And if you think about it, it kind of fits, doesn’t it?
Yes, the British naval forces have been very grand at some time, but the Spanish armada was impressive nonetheless. Conquistadores roaming the new world, and all that adventurous stuff happening in the Caribbean between the British, the Spanish and the French. So why not take that to the stars? Spanish it is!
Funny side note: I think there is a reference to the Mass Effect universe here, by some human commander named Schäfer (which is the German equivalent to the English shepherd of the original games). In fact, there are some of these pop culture references strewn around the entire novel (including a portal gun). It makes for a fine and sometimes nerdy humor throughout the story.
(And the space gates along with their mysterious builders are also quite reminiscent of Mass Effect – then again, it’s a trope that had been used in different settings as well, like the tabletop role playing game Coriolis.)
But then there’s the part that separates the Chilling Effect from other stories in the genre. And no, I’m not talking about the psychic cats, although they are quite unique – but there mostly an interesting footnote, most of the time. No, it’s the part where the usually political and/or military sass of those stories is traded for organized crime and a captain lying to her crew with all the best intents in the world – until she realizes that intention does not turn wrong into right. It’s a character development that is way above the genre standards, and it brings a seriousness to the table that balances out the sometimes quirky humour.
So, what can you expect? It’s an underdog story, some light romance, some revenge on the side, space opera action with sometimes quirky humour. And it’s all being played in a vast and big universe, but don’t expect too much world building. A lot of planet names – or alien species – seem to be throwaway words, like there this moment, gone the next, never to return. The real world here is the small world aboard a space ship in the void of space, and the kind of family you choose to have
All in all, I would have loved a bit more serious world building (and for the cats to be put into action at some point), and I had a feeling the ending was cut short (then again, there’s a next book). And while I enjoyed the Spanish sentences thrown into the story for atmosphere, I would have really loved some translations in footnotes. I’d say 3.5 stars.
One reply on “Chilling Effect [Chilling Effect #1], by Valerie Valdes”
I always love your enthusiastic and witty reviews, Stefan. Your points are always valid and authors should take heed, since you so obviously know your stuff when it comes to what a reader is looking for in this genre. Go, Stefan!!! Great job!