Author: Jess Anastasi
Genre: Romance, Science-Fiction
Date of Publication: 2nd January, 2017
Page Count: 352 pages (Kindle edition)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
After his unusual reaction to a weapon, Commando Varean Donnelly is accused of being a shape-shifting alien and imprisoned onboard the Imojenna. Sure, he has abilities he keeps hidden from everyone—including the gorgeous doc examining him—because the government makes sure people as different as him disappear. For good.
Imojenna doctor Kira Sasaki knows there’s something different about the handsome commando the captain’s thrown in their brig. She doesn’t think he’s Reidar, although he might have been a victim of their cruel experiments. But when Kira learns the stubborn commando’s racial make-up, she finds herself torn between defending him to Captain Rian Sherron and his crew or urging Varean to escape while he still can.
Well, I suppose my lucky streak with ARCs had to end eventually…honestly, this was a struggle to get through. I didn’t expect to have as much trouble as I did finishing this one because the synopsis hit my sweet spot – a feisty lady doctor wrangling the bad news commando sounded right up my alley. Plus I like sci-fi romance, which is a sub-genre I don’t often get to read, so I was looking forward to this story, but was ultimately quite let down.
First, a very petty nitpick, but my god was it annoying how all the characters in this futuristic society spoke English exactly the same way as we do with no difference OTHER than the use of the word ‘freck’ instead of ‘fuck’. It was such a pointless change and every single clunky unnecessary usage made me grind my teeth in frustration:
“I don’t know a thing about frecking shape-shifting aliens…”
“Get frecked, asshole.”
“He was sure as frecking hell angry…”
FRECKING KILL ME ALREADY.
Second, the romance isn’t very compelling, it’s your basic insta-love with Varean taking a whiff of the doctor’s luscious vanilla scent and feeling a buzz from her warm, gentle fingers and promptly finding it impossible to resist her. Meanwhile Kira finds him so attractive that her judgment is immediately compromised and she goes out of her way to disobey every order from her hardass terrifying captain in order to pander to the prisoner she was not supposed to be anywhere near, let alone uncuff or kiss, let alone give a tender sponge bath to…and so on and so forth. There isn’t much depth or development of their relationship, nowhere near enough for us to understand why she risks her position and her life to free him nor why he is so taken with her that he’s willing to endure hell in order to keep her from intervening on his behalf.
Third, the supporting cast are nearly all unlikable and saddled with single-note characterization. Rian is a murderous monster, Callan is a stubborn ass, Lianna is a vicious shrew…only Zahli and Ella escape the heaping of negative characteristics because the former is the heroine of a previous novel and the latter is set up to be the heroine of a future novel, so instead they’re passive, sweet and virtuously wholesome.
I feel as though the author was perhaps trying for a ‘Firefly’ vibe, with the rag-tag crew of misfits in space, taking on passengers that are more than they seem and ending up rebelling against a secret wide-spread conspiracy. But the crew don’t have anywhere near the same chemistry and fierce attachment to each other as the Firefly crew – I have no idea why Kira kept referring to the Imojenna as home and its crew as her family when most of the main characters were completely callous and insensitive and displayed zero respect for her.
Fourth, the story was completely repetitive – Varean was taken prisoner and everyone was all for his torture and death (despite no evidence of wrongdoing) based on him presumably being an alien. Every single encounter for several chapters involves him being threatened and then shot unconscious. When the plot gets underway and they’re all off on a merry adventure, his input is greeted with threats of violence and murder, even when he’s being helpful and done nothing wrong. Then things go FUBAR and holy shit, what are they going to do, everyone is frecked, and Varean has been nothing but an asset and upstanding guy, offering assistance and tactical support, but can you guess how they respond whenever he opens his mouth? THREATS OF VIOLENCE AND MURDER. The xenophobic nature of the crew really got on my nerves, acting as though his genetics made him fundamentally untrustworthy and fit only for a swift execution.
After all that, I still ended up finishing the story, so obviously it had some redeeming factors, otherwise I would’ve quit halfway through. On the plus side, ‘Diffraction‘ was quite an easy read, with brisk and snappy writing. I found the alien conspiracy angle intriguing, and I liked the hints we uncover about Rian’s mysterious past. The action scenes were well-done and there were a number of times the story took me by surprise with its twists and turns, and the ending was genuinely thrilling. It’s just a shame the characters were so paper-thin and impossible for me to invest in.
Personal Rating: 2 out of 5 kitties.
Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC free from Entangled Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.