Review: A Lunatic Fear by B.A. Chepaitis

This is the fourth in a set of reviews of the Jaguar Addams series by BA Chepaitis. You can read my review of The Fear Principle here, The Fear of God here, and Learning Fear here. Every Thursday in April I’ll be reviewing another book in the series, culminating in two stops for Chepaitis’ blog tour for the latest in the series, The Green Memory of Fear, on April 25 and 26.

A Lunatic Fear
BA Chepaitis

Wildside Press (2004)
171 pages
Mystery / Sci-Fi / Action

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Jaguar Addams is back. Three prisoners are brought to Planetoid 3 with symptoms of exposure to chemicals that can come only from illegal moon mining -- but who's running the lunar mining game, and where are they processing the Artemis byproducts? Alex and Jaguar are caught in a hornet's nest of politics, profits, and psychoses, as both are driven into a moon madness that cannot be denied.

Normally by this time in a series, I start getting burned out by the author’s narrative pattern and bored of the characters, especially in a cast as small as the one in Chepaitis’ Jaguar Addams series. That wasn’t the case with A Lunatic Fear. Chepaitis still managed to create an all new situation to drop Jaguar and Alex in the middle of that didn’t have much of anything in common with the previous cases. This time people are going mad and it’s assumed that illegal lunar mining and processing might be the cause behind it.

That’s not to say there isn’t a formula to the series. Again there’s a larger conspiracy with many different players and characters secretly playing both sides. Jaguar finds herself in mortal peril a time or two. Actual jaguars are used to cause a distraction. The good guys do illegal things and in the end they all come out clean, back to life as normal. None of these things bothered me though.

With all the talk about the moon, the moon rocks, and lunar this and lunar that, the entire book felt really repetitive to me. I felt my own mind wandering whereas the previous volumes kept me pretty engaged in the plot. A lot of the book takes place while the characters aren’t quite themselves, lost in a sort of hazy perception of the world around them. I also got lost in the haze, often times not really understanding what was going on. I couldn’t explain parts of the book because the writing style – which works so well when contributing to a sense of panic or agitation – is a cloudy as the characters. By the end things are so twisted, I’m barely certain that I understood the resolution of the main plot and how that might lead to the next book in the series.

This is also the first time where I felt there were blatant inconsistencies. Characters would be in one scene, but have disappeared by the next without a word though logic would state that they should still be there. A couple of portions repeated themselves with only the slightest of moderations that left me confused and wondering if perhaps some of the characters ended up in a time loop. When an author uses stylistic elements of their writing that are technically grammatically incorrect in order to enhance emotion or action, it sort of makes all rules of English grammar fly out the window, so it’s impossible to determine if this repetition was purposeful (if so, I didn’t get it) or a copyediting mistake.

But Jaguar and Alex are still interesting characters, and in A Lunatic Fear Chepaitis shows off other sides of them. Jaguar seems more vulnerable, Alex a little less grounded. The relationships and the pure devotion everyone has that causes them to blindly do illegal things in support of the others is still a quality of the series I really enjoy. I just wish there was a little more elaboration within the grounding of the plot and little less talk about lunar things. I felt that there was an obvious connection or at least an implied one that perhaps this lunar mining might explain the Killing Times, but it wasn’t a direction that was ever explored.

A Lunatic Fear has some good ideas that I feel weren’t executed in a way that maintained my interest. While Jaguar has always been a spiritual character, I think this volume spent a little too much time in the spiritual world and not enough time with everyone’s feet planted firmly on the ground. Despite that I’m still looking forward to reading the fifth volume, The Green Memory of Fear, next week.