This is the second in a set of reviews of the Jaguar Addams series by BA Chepaitis. You can read the first one, for The Fear Principle, 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.
The Fear Principle
Ace Books (1999)
Action / Sci-Fi
Last week I reviewed The Fear Principle, which introduced me to Jaguar Addams – a pretty kick ass empathic counselor for prisoners attempting to be reformed through enhanced fear tactics. While there were some science fiction aspects to the narrative, it was more of a thriller and not my usual type of read. Despite that I enjoyed it and was eager to see this universe and these characters expanded upon.
When I was pitched these books for a blog tour, I was told that they could all be read as standalone titles. I’ve been told this about a lot of series and that’s usually not the case, but with The Fear of God, I was genuinely surprised to find that it could easily act as a standalone novel without losing much in context. There would be a little less character development and a little less build up for the will-they-won’t-they relationship, but overall the book does a great job of (re)introducing the character of Jaguar Addams, the idea of reforming criminals through having them face their worst fears, and the world she inhabits on Planetoid 3.
This time Dr. Addams is sent to reform an obsessive cult leader, who speaks in bible verses and has a bad habit of using children as weapons to cleanse the world through “the blood of the lamb”. Because the Feds caught a large number of the cult members, the Planetoid is a little overwhelmed with too many prisoners and unwanted federal agents. The Feds influenced the treatment chosen for the cult leader, Sardis, deciding to “kill her” and have her treated through a virtual reality version of “heaven”. Meanwhile her devious second-in-command breaks free from custody and seemingly disappears as dead bodies start piling up.
I still really like Jaguar. She’s stubborn and headstrong, but also very smart and willing to take chances in order to do what’s right. While others might not see eye-to-eye with her moral compass, she generally is right, if not a bit aggressive in her tactics. Her relationship with her boss Alex becomes a much larger focus than in the first book in the series, where it was only hinted that perhaps they had a tumultuous and emotionally destructive affair ahead of them. It doesn’t occur in The Fear of God, but it’s not hinted at either – it’s posted on a giant billboard. Meanwhile Alex remains reliable and always willing to take a flying leap into danger when asked, a sort of blind loyalty that makes him more intriguing despite his generally buttoned up exterior.
The introduction of the virtual reality simulation upped the science fiction aspect of the story while also providing a different context for Jaguar to use her empathic talents – or in this case not use her talents because the VR interfered with whatever allows her to get into the heads of other. Along with the case in hand, it distinguished the book drastically from the first in the series. I didn’t feel like things were being rehashed despite a similar narrative structure.
I was a little bothered by the fact that I saw early on what the cult’s end game was through the chaotic ramblings of the clearly insane cult leader, but that Jaguar, Alex and the rest kept running around without a real clue of what was to come. There were a number of things that happened or were said that were seemingly ignored and forgotten. Then again I might have also just been getting annoying with all the repetitive bible quotes that the crazy, homicidal woman kept screaming.
But overall I enjoyed it and hope that Chepaitis managed to keep the rest of the series as interesting and distinctive as The Fear of God and The Fear Principle. It’s interesting to see how she mashes up a sort of noir-in-space thriller and alters it for each new story. Despite the silly covers, this is a well written and interesting series that still has me intrigued going into book three.