Blue Shift: The Second Species Trilogy book 1 by Jane O’Reilly (book review).

September 29, 2019 | By | Reply More

‘Blue Shift’ by Jane O’Reilly, the first book in ‘The Second Species Trilogy’, is a space opera with a heavy leaning towards romance but not quite as we know it.

Jinnifer Blue is a pilot and, like all professional space pilots, is required to have ‘tellurium’ in her body to interface directly with spaceships. The tellurium nanobots in her bloodstream come with changes to her DNA to allow her to heal quicker, a loan she has to pay off for having them inserted in her body, a shortened lifespan, a retinal implant by her right temple and a huge appetite to feed these changes. Unlike others of the current crew who were brought up in Earth’s grimy underground cities, she is a dome brat with telltale white hair and dark eyes. She could have had an easy life staying in Earth’s domes, but had to escape from her overbearing mother, Ferona.

While on watch, bringing back supplies from a colony in the asteroid belt, her ship is boarded by pirates. Her crewmates hate her for being dome-born and want to leave her to mercy of the pirates. The pirate Captain Caspian Dax having all the imperfections of someone born in an underground city and the large size that screams genetic modifications instead kills her crewmates and spares her. We later find out he has a soft spot for women with white hair and dark eyes. She is set afloat in the escape pod.

On her next run, her new crewmates rape Jinnifer because she is a dome brat and think she must have an in with the pirates. She vows never to let that happen again and gets more tellurium put into her body enough to produce knives from her hands to defend herself.

Twenty years later, Jinn has paid off her loan and bought her own ship. She works for the security service chasing down criminals and taking them to prison ship A2 orbiting the Earth. Against the odds, she picks up a warrant for Caspian Dax, one she does not want to carry out but desperately needs the money for her retirement. The security service agent with her organises his capture by docking into the pirate’s ship while the crewmembers are on shore leave, stunning him in the chemi-cleanse unit and escaping without a hitch. Before they reach A2, Bryant ensures she has programmed the autopilot to dock with A2 and then stuns her with a blaster.

Both Jinnifer and Caspian are delivered to A2. They discover the prison has been turned into a huge medical facility where prisoners are forcibly genetically modified. Caspian recognises what they are being modified into, because he was on the original experimental program to develop soldiers, assassins and spies by implanting DNA from the appropriate alien species until an ethical medical AI freed him and three others. Caspian, aided by Jinn and her tellurium, escapes back to his ship and so begins their love story with a difference and their fight against the government to stop this program.

Ferona has become Minister for Off World Affairs and is all too well aware Earth is dying very quickly. With not enough room on the colonies for everyone, the only hope is an uninhabited planet Spes for which they need permission from the Intergalactic Council. Two members, the Sittans and the Shi-Fai, are unlikely to vote in their favour unless Ferona can deliver what they want: strong men to fight in the Sittan arena and women with immunity to the Shi-Fai’s poisonous touch for sex purposes.

Ferona murders her way to obtain a promotion and accelerates the program for changing the DNA in people. The Sittan Empress wants one particular individual in return for her vote, Caspian Dax. His escape from A2 is inconvenient to say the least. She arranges for Bryant and others to hunt him down, which will lead to a clash with her daughter, Jinnifer.

This fast-paced novel has many of the traditional themes of space opera, aliens, AIs, explosions, daring-do, spaceships galore and clear good versus bad. When it comes to the romance side of things, the story is a familiar one of man falling hopelessly in love with girl, girl getting into all sorts fixes he has to get her out of and, finally, girl realising she is in love with the man.

For me, Jinnifer almost but does not quite come off as a believable character. She has been through so much in her early life that, by the time she is 38, you would expect her to be more cautious and think things through more carefully before landing herself in another mess. A good example is when she approaches too close to a beckoning well-muscled criminal in the cage without knowing any of his background.

The novel is an easy read. The traditional space opera’s themes allow short descriptions of the world-building that helps gives it its fast pace. There are a good number of cliff-hangers to keep reader wanting to turn to the page, another normal aspect of space opera.

What is rare, if not unique, about this novel is it explores to quite some depth the physical and consequential complications of making love between man and woman altered by the science fictional themes. In his case, he has been altered by alien DNA and, in her case, by having the extra tellurium that can turn into knives extending from her hands at her wish. It is worth reading ‘Blue Shift’ for this ground-breaking theme alone.

Rosie Oliver

September 2019

(pub: Piatkus/Little Brown. 327 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99. ISBN: 978-0-349-41658-8)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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