Title: Lab Rat One
Author: Andrea K. Höst
Series: Touchstone #2
Cassandra Devlin is still adjusting to being on another planet. Well, technically, planets, since she’s been the instrumental force in re-opening Munia for Tare’s people to recolonize. But the mystery of what killed the original inhabitants of Munia and drove the survivors to other planets hasn’t been solved. The rifts and the memories of monsters that populate the spaces are growing worse. And even though her abilities make her irreplaceable, no one’s really sure what to do with her. Can she survive long enough to find a place in this crazy new world?
This continues smoothly right from where Stray left off. If you haven’t read that book first, stop reading this and go do that.
I like how well-drawn these characters are. Cassandra really isn’t more than a typical teen in so many ways, and she’s having a lot of trouble keeping up with the Olympic-level athletic Setari. Having weird enhancement abilities doesn’t give her a free pass–she’s worked as hard as her body will tolerate, and still isn’t very good in a fight. I liked that the Setari exercise so much, amusingly enough. They’re not magically able to make themselves fit and trim either, and being injured requires rehabilitation even with some of the fast-healing nanotechnology they’ve invented.
It shows in other ways too. The awkwardness of the monitoring comes back, especially when Cassandara starts thinking about a possible relationship. The little pieces of daily life, like television shows and shopping, intersperses with the more intense periods of missions, invasions, and general action.
I was also impressed the story firmly stays away from becoming a dystopia, where Cassandara needs to rebel against Evil Authority and reshape society. Instead she’s doing the work to fit in where she can, puts up with a lot of stress and discomfort, but still has limits she won’t cross.
The one thing that I wasn’t so keen on was the way the major relationship worked out in the end. It just seemed too much, too fast.
Not that it didn’t make some sense to skip a few things, but going from a cool working relationship straight to sex in the span of about ten minutes felt really bizarre. No clearing the air, no trying to offer a bit of a relationship before sleeping together, just sex. I liked his character a lot, but I hadn’t thought he was someone so quick to jump between the sheets.
Overall if you liked Stray this is a very good followup. The character dynamics are very strong, and although the greater mysteries are unfolding very slowly, there’s plenty of action and excitement along the way. I rate this book Recommended.