Fault Tolerance - Book Review
by Valerie Valdes
Before I start to gush about this novel, you need to know two things:
First, It’s part 3 of a trilogy, so while there won’t be any spoilers for book 3, there will be spoilers for books 1 and 2 which I highly recommend you read (the first is Chilling Effect) if you enjoy space opera with humour, allusions to popular culture sci-fi, and lots of diversity (the main character is proudly Latina, there are many other cultures present in the main cast, and there’s a trans woman secondary character and other LBGTQ+ rep)!
Second, I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. Thank you so much to the publisher for the e-arc. I was so excited!
Fault Tolerance is an adrenaline-fueled finale to a fantastic series. It balances action, emotion, and humour to give you a story with such great characters that it’ll make your eyeballs fall off from compulsive reading.
Nothing wrecks Captain Eva Innocente's vacation plans quite like an anonymous threat to vaporize billions of people. Hundreds of monoliths have suddenly materialized in space, broadcasting the same looped message: surrender or be exterminated. Is the universe being epically spammed?
Surrender to whom? Exterminated when? And how is Eva, commander of a beat-up cargo ship, supposed to prevent it? As panic spreads, a mystery message sends Eva to find answers, in a system that hasn't been explored in all of recorded history.
With the crew of La Sirena Negra, a score of psychic cats, a feline-phobic robot, and a superweapon she has no clue how to use, Eva prepares to battle the unknown. But first, she has to defeat the known: mercenary Tito Santiago, whose idea of a clean fight is a shower before kill time. His mission is to ensure Eva doesn't succeed at hers.
If anything goes wrong, the universe is doomed. But if everything goes according to Eva's plans--wait, when does that ever happen?
The characters, as usual, are a lot of fun. Eva is the same person as in the first two books, but she’s wiser and more aware of her crew’s feelings. She’s had to learn to be this way and she really has grown in that regard. Her relationship with Vakar is so incredibly cute - I loved the respect and love they have for one another but also the trust. Normally I’m a “shipping a new couple” type of reader, but I was 100% on board for Eva and Vakar moments. I wanted more.
I also enjoyed the realism of how she and her sister Mari feel about one another. The love is there, but it’s buried under betrayal and clashing personalities. As much as I’d like to say I’m Eva, I’m definitely Mari (“She’d always wanted to explore ancient places and discover things and write super boring essays about them”). (This is an ARC so that line might change or disappear in the final printing) There are two new characters who, like Sue and Min, don’t take up a lot of page time but are endearing nonetheless. There aren’t any characters in the novel whom I don’t like or at least find interesting. Nobody likes Miles, but he’s fun to not like.
One could say that the novel has a “small universe” problem, which is when the same people are always showing up for the major events despite the improbability of that happening, but I would disagree. The arrival of some already known characters helped propel the story along faster, as we already know (and or have issues) with these people, so we didn’t need to learn all about them. It was more of a running joke too. Speaking of the jokes, this book is so damn funny. It's a combination of humorous moments and silly allusions to pop culture stuff that either is or isn't sci-fi related (there’s also a hilarious riff on the cliche “I let out the breath I didn't realize I was holding”.) In book 2, the main pop culture reference was clearly Pokemon and this one is Transformers with a bit of Power Rangers (or perhaps it’s something else, but those were what it felt like to me - it’s Mecha basically). But this doesn't mean it was relying on those concepts to tell the story - these are common sci-fi tropes and Valdes still managed to craft her own plot around them. It’s very fun. The battle scenes are, as usual, fun, fast, and easy to picture; they utilize a mix of hand-to-hand, weaponry, evasion, spaceships, and new technology. Everything in the novel is well-described but it’s definitely not a hard sci-fi (which is a good thing).
The stakes in the novel felt real, and as much as “save the universe” plots aren’t always my favourite to read, this one worked very well as it ties into the other two novels and it also made sense why Eva was involved. She also takes the time to lament her possible death, as she’s still just a fairly normal person in unusual circumstances. Those aspects gave the story heart and an emotional core.
Overall, the only thing I’m sad about is that it’s over! I loved this trilogy to bits and will definitely be buying a physical copy. I loved it.