Review of Overload Flux

Teaser first (from Goodreads) 
The Central Galactic Concordance has been stable for two centuries, but trouble is brewing. A pandemic is affecting hundreds of civilized planets, and someone is stealing the vaccine…

Brilliant investigator Luka Foxe’s hidden mental talent is out of control, making him barely able to function in the aftermath of violence, and the body count is rising. The convoluted trail leads to a corrupt pharma industry and the possibility of an illegal, planet-sized laboratory. In the face of increasing threats, he must rely on an enigmatic, lethal woman he just met, but she has deep secrets of her own.

Mairwen Morganthur hides extraordinary skills under the guise of a dull night-shift guard. The last thing she wants is to provide personal security for a hot-shot investigator, or to be plunged into a murky case involving sabotage, treachery, and the military covert operations division that would love to discover she’s still alive.

Two more lives in a rising death count won’t bother their enemies one bit. Their only hope for survival lies in revealing their dark secrets and learning to trust one another.

My words second:
3 stars of 5
First off, I do recommend this–I only put my impressions into blog form if I can recommend with enthusiasm–but I’m only saying it may appeal to  other readers and fans of space opera, clean romance and traditional-style science fiction, not that it will or should appeal. Me, I never warmed to it enough to lose myself, and I won’t lie about that.

You gotta remember though, that I have a cold, hard, analyst’s heart. That means I have the objectivity and reading experience to say Overload Flux is good even if I didn’t like it.** Mileage varies, that’s my baseline. This book has some great ideas in it, but they aren’t ones that move me. It also contains elements which I dislike and other people love. So. Here are the deets:

First, I wasn’t sold on the future. Overload Flux is space opera, not hard scifi. It offers lots of interesting scientific extrapolation and an incredibly complex future society, but…I couldn’t ignore the parts that didn’t fit. A lot of things struck me as anachronistic or made me think, “but if they can do X, why don’t they use it for Y as well?” The epic scope of this universe means these points may be addressed in later books, but they stand out like high-radiation spots of nope in this one. To me.

Second,  the romance. The culture is presented as sex-positive, with consensual sex between adults socially acceptable for both sexes. The attraction between the protagonists was very well portrayed. The excuses to not consummate the relationship? Not so well. (Not enough time, not enough privacy, badly-timed interruptions–the situations didn’t generate true dramatic tension, nor were they played for comedy.)  I love a good romance, but I like a plausible one much better. If the pair has an overwhelming bond and a deep need to connect, FFS, they would fuck. If  they don’t have that psychic “love conquers all” connection, I needed to be shown a lot more specific, personal reasons they fall in love and a better reason to abstain than ‘first time together needs to be perfect’ issue.

Last, wordiness. Very much a personal complaint (and a fault I share.)  Every important action or point of dialogue came sandwiched between long descriptions of where, exactly, everyone was standing, what expressions they were wearing, and how they were moving, with a side order of what they were thinking before and after speaking or acting. As that sentence demonstrates, more can be less.  Some of the scenes were spectacular, some of the action quite intense, but I undoubtedly missed nuances within long paragraphs that felt redundant.

So. This is a sweeping scifi world-build designed on a grand scale, with psychic powers and swashbuckling space war as trimmings. Intense, chaste slow-build romantic relationship, evil villains and conspiracies, action payoff, and excellent set up for the next installment. Which I will be reading.

Because I did like it, and I think the story is just going to get better and better.

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** Recall I’m the one who can’t get past chapter 3 of book 1 in the Wheel of Time, but I chew through George R. R. Martin like cotton candy. Robert Sawyer’s SF  leaves me unmoved, but give me C. J. Cherryh all day long. Nothing is universally loved.