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Joint Review: Havoc (The Dred Chronicles #2) by Ann Aguirre

HavocWhere did you get the book: ARC from author

Publisher: ACE

Release Date: Out Now

The Conglomerate’s most dangerous convicts have made the prison ship Perdition their home. And they will defend it…

Perdition is under siege. Mercenaries have boarded the station with orders to take control of the facility—and execute the prisoners. Their commander is offering full pardons to the first five inmates willing to help the mercs complete their mission.

Dresdemona “Dred” Devos hasn’t survived hard time just to surrender to the Conglomerate’s armored thugs. Leading a ragtag army of inmates, Dred and her champion, Jael, wage a bloody guerrilla war of chaos and carnage against impossible odds. But no matter how dire the outlook, the Dread Queen never backs down…

Cass: I absolutely devoured Perdition when it came out last year, so when I saw the sequel was up for review I attempted to leap through the computer screen to make it COME FASTER.

I was not disappointed. Havoc (which I dubbed ‘Escape From Alcatraz In Space’) lived up to it’s predecessor on every front, and left me just as greedy for the next entry in The Dred Chronicles. Which has tragically not yet been written.

Be warned, if you haven’t yet read Perdition (Why? Go read it. Right now.) there will be spoilers. It is, after all, impossible to review a book without spoiling it’s prequel.

Has: Oh, I so totally agree! I adored Perdition, but I really think Havoc was even better and that was hard to top that book! I actually thought this was a more like a reverse Die Hard, because the premise opens up of Dred and her prison-mates waiting for a routine supply run. But instead are fighting for their lives against an armoured group of mercs who have been ordered to wipe out the prisoners and it is breathless non-stop action from then on.

I also loved that this book, delved much more into the past and feelings of the core group of characters, such as Dred and Jael, whose relationship deepens much further with added repercussions due to the events in the first book. As well as the supporting side characters, like, Tam (Dred’s spymaster) and Martine who develops an interesting relationship and even Calypso the ringmaster (who helps to organize sanctioned fights in Queensland). I found the characterizations much more deeper due to this and I liked how much they all evolved and changed from the first book.

Cass: Though I loved all the new info on Martine, I was completely thrown by it. When we first started getting more with her, I was giggling and asking “what the fuck?” It was great. (Especially when you have houseguests who are confused when people start talking to books.)

I know I say this in most of my positive reviews, but that is because you cannot do good scifi without world-building. And the world-building in Havoc was exemplary. All along it seemed odd to have a Space Prison For Super Dangerous People. Why not just kill them? It’s hardly cost effective, and not exactly a model for rehabilitation. This time around we started getting more information on the structure of the universe, why someone would build and manage (well, technically manage) a space prison, and how the forces in Dred’s universe handle a change in policy.

One thing remains true across all science fiction – mercenaries/soldier types? Utterly disposable to the powers that be. Some things have gone beyond trope to be as rigid a law as gravity.

I have every expectation that Book 3 (do we even have a title yet?) will take us even further into the inner-workings of the Overlords of Perdition. (Wouldn’t it just be amazing to learn it’s all some crazy psychological experiment? Or maybe a government program to hone super-soldiers out of people with variety of unique and dangerous skills? Maybe Big Brother has been watching everyone’s moves the whole time!) This right here? The sign of fantastic world-building. I can see a dozen different equally amazing Perdition Origin Stories – and I cannot wait to find out. And of course, how it will all come to a fiery and destructive end.

Has: I totally agree! I was left guessing with all the twists and turns and the reasons why the mercs were sent out to kill the prisoners and it was all so believable as well as building up beautiful tension in the story.  I also loved most of the core characters even though some of them have committed crimes they still retained their humanity in a stark place that eats it away like acid. I also loved how  Ann Aguirre painted Dred and friends as  real people with vulnerabilities and faults, and in this book you get a great insight into that because after the events in the first book, Dred and Jael’s relationship takes an interesting twist. I really liked how Havoc cemented them as a couple and I loved how they romance developed which was a light in a horrific world. I think they really needed that touch-stone with each other because they would have lost their humanity like the other prisoners.

I was also taken by surprised by Tam and how reacted towards Martine, there was definitely a kink in his armour and I was glad to see him warming up in some way because I wasn’t entirely sure about his motives in the first book. But in this entry Ann Aguirre offered a different dimension to his character which I enjoyed!  I also became really became sympathetic towards some of the other  prisoners especially the alien faction which I wont go into details due to spoilers but I loved how certain plot points from Sirantha Jax series entertwined with Havoc which created an unexpected element. I freaking enjoyed this aspect because it brought out an another side to Jael’s character and again showed how much he had changed.

Cass: Sirantha Jax is one of those series I always meant to read and just….never quite got around to. So I come at it completely devoid of any knowledge of the previous series. Which means if you have not been following Sirantha, you will still be able to delve right into Dred. Though there may be overlap, there aren’t any plot holes. Which is the right way to handle a spinoff series!

As for the prisoners in Perdition. Yeah, I know some of them are serial rapists and mass murderers (Redshirts! All of them!), but I got the vibe that plenty of them were shuttled off to Perdition as political prisoners, or because of futuristic racism. All our main characters are quick to point out how terrible they are and that they belong there – but we know what was driving both Jael and Dred. Who’s to say others don’t have equally intriguing backstories? We’re pretty clearly dealing with an utterly corrupt futuristic government. (Or maybe this is my anger at the storm-trooper tactics of local police bleeding over into extreme empathy for the denizens of Queensland. Well, the denizens with speaking roles. It’s hard to weep for Redshirts. DAMN THE MAN!)

One of the bonus factors of Havoc was that it did not simply rehash Perdition with a Queensland The Good Prisoners vs Scary Bad Prisoners plotline. (I am looking at you Catching Fire.) Sure, we have the same old villains – but also some very awesomely fleshed out new ones. We even get some point of view chapters from the mercs. Seeing both sides talk strategy and react to one another deliciously increases the tension as the story builds.

Has: I agree, you do not have to read the Sirantha Jax series but I highly recommend that you do (and I can’t believe you didn’t get the chance yet!) because it definitely enriches the story and plot threads concerning Jael’s backstory. I really appreciated and enjoyed how much he had changed from appearing in the Sirantha Jax series to his time on Perdition and with Dred. It really adds a lot to his character.

I also agree, that Ann Aguirre doesn’t rehash the same plot-lines and this had a different feel and tone from the first book. I also felt the same for the Sirantha Jax series because each book was different and I loved that. Havoc though for me was much more action-packed and the pace was so fast that I was glad for the quiet moments in between which also helped to strengthen the characterisation and plot. But I can guarantee you, this is a book that you get totally suckered in and you won’t pause for a break until you turn that last page.

Overall, I think Havoc was spectacularly and spell-bindingly perfect with high octane action that keeps you on the edge of your seat and a romance that is surprisingly sweet and tender in a harsh and unforgiving setting. I loved how Ann Aguirre explores notions of humanity and what makes us human when we have to face hard choices. This is honestly one of the best SF romance series I have read and I can’t believe I have to wait another year for the conclusion!

I give Havoc an A+

Cass: This is a scifi romance series? Damnit! Every month there is a new something-romance that I end up loving and further crushes my ability to convince myself I only read SF – no romance. I can practically hear Marlene laughing at me right now. How do we define romances anyway? Is it anytime the main characters hook up? Or is there an extra element involved?

Either way, Havoc was amazing. I give it an A! (You can’t get a plus out of me without a dragon.)

 

5 replies on “Joint Review: Havoc (The Dred Chronicles #2) by Ann Aguirre”

Ann Aguirre is going to be a keynote speaker at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference this October – we’re super lucky. It’s her, Lauren Dane and Victoria Dahl. And there are about twenty spaces left … just dangling temptation out there.

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