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:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- 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! )