J. B. Garner
on March 4, 2016 :
A good literary chef knows that it’s wise to sample the local cuisine, to learn the flavors of your home. Today, I’ll be dipping into that local cuisine as we tuck into Double Life, the start of a space opera feast that promises exploration, space pirates, and bounty hunting galore. Throwing off the strict measurements of a hard sci-fi recipe is usually a treat. So does does Double Life do the local foodies’ proud or is it not up to snuff?
We’ll find out! First, however, let’s bring up the logs of the U.S.S. Starving Review for our mission parameters:
1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible
I think the first thing to note about the menu here is that Double is a bit different than what you might immediately expect from the term ‘space opera’. What I mean by that is that this particular meal dives a bit deeper into the spice jar of character drama over the straight action-adventure flavoring one might apply to typical space opera. That isn’t to mean there isn’t any of those things, not at all! But there’s a deeper layer here, a flavor ripple between the cakes so to speak, and that leads to a different composition and pacing when compared to simple space opera.
Character, accordingly, is Double’s strongest point. The protagonist is full-realized and she has both strong and weak points, virtues and vices, leading to a solid character arc with plenty of room to march in subsequent volumes. Likewise, several of the secondary characters get some room to shine. I especially respect and like that a romantic subplot is not front and center. The strongest relationships that are explored are, in fact, familial, straying wisely away from the formula that female protagonists need their leading man.
There’s also a lot of intriguing world-building going on here. The foundation layers are firm, not too spongy, and add a nice subtext to many of the events of the plot. The exploration of the economic backbone that drives the main action, as well as taking time to consider religion’s place in the characters’ lives, shows a nice attention to detail that many space operas gloss over.
That being said, there were a few moments of confusion when it came to that world. There was one particular question that I kept asking myself that was never answered (it wasn’t about the plot, but a particular world detail) and, with such an emphasis on the economic reasons behind pirating, bounty hunting, and policing in Double’s world, I found it strangely difficult to really figure the ‘worth’ of the money changing hands (as in how much a unit of money was really worth). Still, none of this caused more than a momentary bit of puzzlement and I doubt a casual diner will even notice.
With a slower first course and more layers of cake than a typical space opera, in summation, Double Life is still a delightful romp that takes the time to look more closely at its ingredients than most! I would strongly recommend this to space opera fans, lovers of character-driven drama, and those who enjoy fully realized, female protagonists. If all you want in your space opera is a pure action run or you are searching for crunchy hard sci-fi, you might want to look elsewhere.
FINAL VERDICT: **** (A slow first course, but a delightful romp all the same that dares to look deeper! )
(review of free book)
on March 21, 2015 :
I loved this book!
First of all, space opera/sci-fi is not my usual literary indulgence (although it may become one). While the space scene is the setting, the struggles are no less human than any here on Earth.
Double Life is the story of Razia/Lyssa, depending on which activity she is engaged in (bounty-hunting/exploring-and-selling planets, respectively). She is putting off dealing with her internal struggles, trying to solve them with external solutions such as proving her worth to the pirate community. Evans does a wonderful job of setting up the internal motivations and the external forces working on Razia and bringing her face-to-face with her problems. The banter between characters is witty and realistic; and while Razia is trying to figure out what in the world she is going to do, she didn’t come across as the whiny-needy female characters that have made their way to the main stage in recent years. The setting, while in space, was well presented and the problems of things such as currency are addressed, so as to not leave you guessing.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the rest of the series and other works by S. Usher Evans.
(review of free book)
on Nov. 7, 2014 :
Double Life by S Usher Evans
The story is set in a very small universe where pirating is a game of one-upmanship, seeing who can get the highest bounty on their head while staying clear of the U-Pol and their bounty hunting colleagues.
Young Dr. Lyssandra Peate, used and abused by her father and family in her tender, younger years, yearns to become Razia, a bounty-hunting pirate and earning the highest bounty in the universe. Convinced that only when she does this will everyone realize that she is not worthless; that she does deserve to be respected.
Unfortunately, after two years, though she is an accepted member in one of the contending top pirate webs she is still humiliatingly on probation. Constantly humored and ridiculed, given only low-level jobs she watches and waits for her chance to prove her worth.
In the meantime, following her famous and now missing father’s example, Lyssa uses her doctorate in Deep Space Exploration at the Planetary and System Science Academy to foot the bill for her alter ego. Excavating planets and selling them while she dodges an unscrupulous DSE Supervisor who is convinced she is continuing her father’s work on the one of the universe’s mysteries, Leveman’s Vortex - work he wants to publish under his own name.
Her past and her present all seem to combine to drag Lyssa’s self-image (which was not so great to begin with thanks to her mother refusing to ransom her from a pirate at age 11) deeper and deeper into the mire. She has become a strong, independent, sassy, bitter, loner who pushes everyone who tries to help her away. She has few acquaintances whom she can trust. Sage, a charming childhood pirate friend, plays the guardian angel despite her keen insistence that she needs no help. Harms, an omniscient informer, befriended her despite her being a woman. Val, her never-before-met and unwelcomed 16-year-old brother latches on to her wagon, irritates, and pushes her toward an ending that does not exactly surprise the reader.
Still, I have to say I identified with this young, desperately troubled woman and her sassy, reckless ways. I enjoyed this story and the characterizations. There is action, sass, and humor but the grit and grime of the underworld one would expect from a story of piracy and bounty hunting is missing - to no real ill effect. A charming story that keeps to the light.
Double Life is the first book for this author and I look forward to the sequels she plans for the Razia series.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)
Nina J. Lux
on Oct. 6, 2014 :
Lyssa is one of those love-to-hate (but mostly love) classic heroines whose poor decision-making and fatal flaws throw her into one difficult situation after another. She has lots of personality and a temper like a ticking bomb. You do wish her well and I was on her side most of the time, but still, when hardships hit, you kind of feel she has it coming. That’s a difficult balance to achieve, and one that Evans manages delightfully.
What really gives Double Life its sparkle, however, is the fictional universe in which it takes place. If I had to choose one word to describe it, it’d be the oh-so-literary ”cool”. Honestly though, how can you not love funky pirate characters moving across an infinite playground in space, hunting and taunting each other with humour and deadly seriousness at once? It’s believable and well established in a way which makes it feel real – and gives that silly and wonderful urge of wishing it was indeed reality.
Finally, even if this is a fantasy novel it does what good fantasy usually does: it discusses real-life issues like sexism, political corruption, and justice. Through the main character, Evans allows us to peek into the flaws of her society – flaws that much resemble those we see around us every day. This is not a political novel, but the politics is there, nestled in the thrilling, unpredictable and captivating story of Lyssa/Razia.
All in all, Double Life has plenty of sparkle and soul. For fans of YA fantasy, heavy or light, I’d absolutely recommend Double Life. It’s a quick read, a real page-turner, and an entertaining one at that. Whether you like dystopia, reality-linked fantasy or urban fantasy, Double Life is for you. I hope more readers will discover this series, and that S. Usher Evans keeps the novels coming! The sequel is scheduled for early next year and I, for one, cannot wait!
(reviewed 12 days after purchase)
on Sep. 2, 2014 :
Double Life is a fun adventure for all who are seeking one! Set in a future ruled by pirates and planetary explorers, Double Life brings an intriguing perspective to the themes of family ties, self-concept, and the intersection of Faith and science. Don't expect any bland old coming-of-age tale, though; these ideas come packaged in dangerous encounters, back room business deals, and a web of intergalactic criminals.
The main character, Lyssa/Razia, carries the heart and soul of the story from beginning to end. It is so refreshing to find a female protagonist that I don't feel like I have to feel sorry for. She is FAR from perfect, but she owns her choices and refuses to apologize for who she is. At no point does she view herself as a victim. It is so wonderful to find such an imperfect yet strong woman in modern literature!
Double Life is a refreshingly modern story that will capture your attention from the very first scene.
(reviewed 51 days after purchase)
on July 5, 2014 :
S. Usher Evans has created a wonderful sci fi world in Double Life filled with space pirates and bounty hunters and the moral question of a good vs evil soul.
I loved Lyssa/Razia. She was smart mouthed and kickass but yet so filled with insecurities at time you can't help but feel for her. I loved the supporting characters. Vel and Harms were very well developed and I loved Lyssa's banter with Sage. The action is non stop in this book and keeps your attention to the very end. I recommend for any sci fi fan to give this book a read. Cannot wait for book 2.
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)