When I finished the spectacular Ascension, I was so keen for the sequel I started reading it in the untranslated French! Turns out, there are a lot of spaceship words I don’t know, so I was thrilled to be approved for the translated Distortion on NetGalley.
Book: Distortion by Victor Dixen
Read before: First five chapters in French.
Ownership: E-ARC sent by NetGalley for fair review; paperback pre-ordered.
Distortion starts exactly where Ascension left off, so I don’t recommend reading any further into this review without having read the first book, as it’s hard to talk about it while avoiding all spoilers! The villains have been revealed, and the contestants must quickly come to terms with this knowledge and work out a way to ensure their survival. If they make it to Mars, they’ll need to work together to stay alive, given that there’s no guarantee that their habitats are safe…
I loved getting to know all the characters better – the boys and girls finally get to meet! There’s a lot of internal tension in the group, as you’d expect from 12 people thrown together in a highly stressful situation, but it’s really interesting to see how the group dynamics have changed from the beginning of the journey. I like that the group looks to Léonor to make decisions – she makes a good leader and is arguably the most street-smart (space-smart?), for all the others’ academic qualifications. One thing that grated on me slightly was the change in Kris’ character once she was united with Alexei. She went from being Léo’s best friend to being pretty vapid and unhelpful, completely under the thumb of her Prince Charming, who turned out to be more like Prince Abusive. I hope there will be more explanation in the third book about the toxicity of the ‘Krisalex’ relationship, because otherwise it’s a bit uncomfortable.
The concept is still stellar, and deeply relevant in the current obsession with reality shows. Serena is a terrifying villain, particularly in the light of recent politics – the fact that she stands for Vice President on the back of her reality TV career, hiding her murderous nature, is ironic and horrifying. I liked that we got to see more of her actively working to elevate herself, as it gave a little more depth to her character. However, for me, having the contestants all be aware of Serena’s plot meant that there was less of the creepy thriller tension that suffused the first book. Once what Léonor has discovered is out in the open, the driving force becomes less solving the mystery and more a straightforward survival story. This isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty of tension, but the main conflict has become the 12 contestants versus Serena, rather than Léonor versus the system. I was really rooting for the contestants as they (mostly Léo) manipulated Serena right back! I was less of a fan of the road-trip fugitive narrative of Andrew and Harmony, for two reasons: for the most part, I just wanted to be back in space with the contestants, and for a very weeny tiny minor part, the combination of names made me imagine them as their Buffy namesakes, which was a tad bit weird.
The translation is, again, incredibly fluid and brings across the tone of the original perfectly. As I mentioned in my review of Ascension, I think the main thing to bear in mind is that there is a difference in styles and trends between US/UK and French writing. If you didn’t like the use of exclamation points in the previous book, be warned, there are even more here. But the writing is extremely pacey, and with the twists and shocks you’ll find yourself racing to the end, then desperate for the next book! Like last time, I’ve downloaded the next book in French so I can get a headstart – word from Victor is that he is currently approving the translation of Book 3, so hopefully not too long to wait!
I think that this one gets four and a half cats from me, so I’m rounding up to five – I liked Ascension more, but this is an incredibly strong follow-up, and I think that the last book in the trilogy will bring it all together as a five star series as a whole! If you loved the first book, you definitely need to continue with the story, and it will not disappoint! Distortion is out on the 18th October, so make sure you keep up with what’s happening on Mars!