Annihilation Aria (Book Review)
by Michael R. Underwood
3 / 5 Stars - Science Fiction (Space Opera)
I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
I love light space opera, but I was underwhelmed with this novel.
It’s frustrating that I couldn’t like it more because it has a lot of things I love: female characters who are people and not just tag-along girlfriends, cool weapons, respectful romantic relationships, and alien cultures. Unfortunately, nothing about it was particularly innovative.
I think the main issue is that it feels like “book 2”. Instead of getting to watch a team grow and come together despite their differences, Max, Lahra and Wheel are already a functioning trio. Their dynamic is … a little boring. The reason why Guardians of the Galaxy (which the author mentions in his afterward) is so much fun is because the team doesn’t get along. It’s another reason why I also loved The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Firefly, and pretty much every other sci-fi book/movie about a small group on a spaceship. Hell, it's why I'm writing one myself.
If the dialogue had been snappy this might have been ok, but there’s nothing memorable about what I hesitate to call banter (aside from one time when Max references Fresh Prince). What’s even more frustrating is that their dynamic could have been made more interesting as Max's fish-out-of-water story or an unorthodox alien-Terran romance (though it barely qualifies, as she’s basically human), but we are denied both of these as Max has acclimatized and the romance is already built and is the victim of a lot of telling and not showing. It seems that Max’s Terran background is included for three reasons: to make cultural comparisons re: discrimination, to provide allusions to earth popular culture, and to make it easy to identify with him, yet as much as these worked I didn’t find they contributed to advancing the story.
The story does pick up considerably around the 40% mark, when we get a new perspective - that of the antagonist. This gave the story much-needed depth and interest, as this character has a different perspective and his chapters provide interesting background on the villains. I perked up whenever a chapter title started with his name.
And then the novel goes full “save the world from a doomsday weapon” and I continued simply to finish, especially after what seemed like a big continuity error on behalf of the weapon.
I’m still giving it 3 out of 5, because it had a great deal of potential, and I did like certain things about it, but the things I did like didn’t outweigh the rest enough to bump it to 4.
I did think the title was rather clever given Lahra’s powers and the doomsday weapon.