I am shamefully overdue on reviewing Margaret Fortune‘s book Nova [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound]. I’d been hoping to review and provide a blurb before the sequel came out. Since the sequel was released on Tuesday of this week, it looks like I blew it.
Here’s some of the publisher’s summary:
Lia Johansen was created for only one purpose: to slip onto the strategically placed New Sol Space Station and explode.
But her mission goes to hell when her clock malfunctions, freezing her countdown with just two minutes to go. With no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no identity besides a name stolen from a dead POW, Lia has no idea what to do next. Her life gets even more complicated when she meets Michael Sorenson, the real Lia’s childhood best friend.
There’s a lot going on here. In some respects, this reads like a pretty standard coming-of-age story, with Lia learning about herself, developing relationships and a romantic interest, and finding purpose. In space!
It’s enjoyable on that level, and for a good 3/4 of the book, Lia’s personal growth takes center stage. But all this is happening against a background of interplanetary war, in which Lia is a literal weapon for the other side. Fortune sprinkles hints and clues as we go, preparing us for the big revelations at the end.
I guessed one of those revelations pretty early on. Others were more of a surprise. The pace really picks up as we learn the truth about Lia’s past and the war she’s fighting. I had a really hard time putting down the book during those final chapters.
In some respects, it reminded me of reading Heinlein as a kid — engaging teen protagonist and interesting space stuff, all written in a way that pulls you along for the story. (But without the more problematic aspects of Heinlein.) The fact that her glitched clock keeps starting and stopping, slowly whittling away the seconds, adds a nice layer of tension and conflict.
I would have liked to see Lia grapple a bit more deeply with the fact that she’s both a suicide bomber and the bomb itself, but the ending resolves that pretty well.
All in all, a fun read. I suspect more experienced SF writers might find parts of it familiar, but it’s still enjoyable. (And best of all, the ebook edition is currently on sale for $1.99.)
Book two of the five-book series, Archangel, came out on March 7.