Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review: Spooky Action at a Distance by Felicia Watson


Genre: Space Opera


This is a sequel to Watson’s We Have Met The Enemy, which I reviewed on my blog in May this year. I enjoyed that, so when I saw this in Big Al’s ‘to review’ list I grabbed it.

This is, actually, the better book of the two in my opinion. The prose is supple and accurate. It begins with action. While the reader is given time to breathe, the action thereafter never really lets up. The introspection which sometimes slowed the pace of WHMTE is more lightly worn this time. Old griefs and enmities have been reconciled when this book opens (mostly): there is more humour. There is a fresh challenge to occupy the very talented and skilled crew of the UDC spaceship Lovelace. An engaging sense of jeopardy is maintained; characters interact credibly, and blossom – sometimes in surprising ways; McGuffins are skillfully crafted, aliens are both imaginative and credible, and the tech is believable and serviceable without getting in the way.


Felicia Watson’s day job is as a scientist. But when she’s writing she says she is “drawn to character driven tales, where we see people we recognize, people who struggle with their mistakes and shortcomings, acknowledge them, and use that knowledge to grow into wiser human beings.” (Goodreads biog). Certainly that is what she has done with these two books set aboard the Lovelace.


I found this novel galloped along. I finished it inside a week (which is quick for me). The structure of the book works well, enabling the story to be character-driven as much as plot-driven. The Lovelace, the space-ship home of the protagonists, is tasked with an urgent mission to The Expanse to rescue two UDC ships which have become stuck there. Time is of the essence (of course) as The Expanse is becoming increasingly unstable and will shortly leave the area of space in which it is currently located.

There is a canine Corpsman (3rd class). There is interesting information on Native American peoples. There is pink dust (you will love the pink dust). The author continues to consider, alongside the rollicking action and with a light touch, what a more equable society in the future might look like, and how it might yet leave room for improvement.

As with WHMTE, Watson has prefaced each chapter with an epigraph. Once again she has ranged widely for these, from Milton to Emily Dickinson, and taking in some interesting outliers along the way. They are always germane to the matter in the chapter to come.

The only thing I didn’t get was the title.

Given that this is the second book of two – does it stand alone? Pretty much. There are just a couple of things you will need to take on trust if you don’t start with We Have Met The Enemy.

I don’t give 5*s to many books I review. The top rating needs to be reserved for the really good stuff, right? This is a ***** book. If you like SF, I heartily recommend it to you.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Judi Moore

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

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