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The Cold Between: A Central Corps Novel Paperback – March 8, 2016
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Bonesteel’s space opera debut, the first in the Central Corps series, expertly revitalizes familiar plot elements…Bonesteel keeps the plot moving briskly…The headlong action will attract readers, but they’ll find themselves paying more attention to the characters’ convincing and satisfying emotional relationships.” (Publishers Weekly on THE COLD BETWEEN)
“Bonesteel introduces readers to her world of outer space travel and galactic politics. While the story is futuristic and held on spaceships that deliver goods and services to settled colonies, the emotions and the mystery surrounding the murder of one of the crew is still current and relatable.” (RT Magazine on THE COLD BETWEEN)
“Bonesteel’s novel more than satisfies with Elena and Trey’s story.” (Library Journal (starred review) on THE COLD BETWEEN)
“The Cold Between is Elizabeth Bonesteel’s debut novel, which is surprising. In this taut, space-based science fiction mystery, she does great things with character, plot, and story that belies her debut status.” (SFF World on THE COLD BETWEEN)
“Surprising, convincing character development makes this series worth following.” (Publishers Weekly on REMNANTS OF TRUST)
“Bonesteel’s debut sets the stakes impressively high…Overall, this is a highly entertaining tale and a promising start to a new series.” (Booklist)
“Elizabeth Bonesteel’s debut The Cold Between joins the ranks of ‘debuts that surprised me with their accomplishments.’ … a welcome addition to the space opera genre.” (Tor.com on THE COLD BETWEEN)
“A powerful blend of military sci-fi and vintage crime noir, Elizabeth Bonesteel’s debut [is] a shifting stellar landscape that finds humanity stretching its limbs into a frontier still full of risk and mystery... a firm foundation for this exciting new trilogy.” (BookPage)
From the Back Cover
Deep in the stars, a young officer and her lover are plunged into a murder mystery and a deadly conspiracy in this first entry in a stellar military science-fiction series in the tradition of Lois McMaster Bujold.
When her crewmate, Danny, is murdered on the colony of Volhynia, Central Corps chief engineer, Commander Elena Shaw, is shocked to learn the main suspect is her lover, Treiko Zajec. She knows Trey is innocent—he was with her when Danny was killed. So who is the real killer and why are the cops framing an innocent man?
Retracing Danny’s last hours, they discover that his death may be tied to a mystery from the past: the explosion of a Central Corps starship at a wormhole near Volhynia. For twenty-five years, the Central Gov has been lying about the tragedy, even willing to go to war with the outlaw PSI to protect their secrets.
With the authorities closing in, Elena and Trey head to the wormhole, certain they’ll find answers on the other side. But the truth that awaits them is far more terrifying than they ever imagined . . . a conspiracy deep within Central Gov that threatens all of human civilization throughout the inhabited reaches of the galaxy—and beyond.
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The MC is described as a more solitary type that would never randomly hook up with some shady pirate guy at a bar, but she does. Alright, this happens, people getting over a bad breakup make decisions that would seem out of character, fine. Pirate guy is framed for the murder of a member of her crew, so she goes down to give the alibi to get him out of jail, as they spent the night together. This is where I should mention that her previous lover completely betrayed her trust and she has also felt abandoned by her best friend and captain. She has serious trust issues and it is mentioned multiple times that she can't really trust others. Remember this, it's important.
Here's where the story becomes unbelievable and completely derails the novel. Pirate is arrested again, as new evidence is brought to light. MC draws on the police officer, fully intending to shoot the arresting investigator dead. Pirate convinces here otherwise, while "gazing at her with a deep abiding affection" or something similar. They only learned the name of each other twelve hours ago and he's gazing at her with strong feelings of affection?! What? They've known each other for approximately twenty-four hours. TWENTY-FOUR HOURS and she's willing to murder a potentially corrupt investigator, while getting killed herself, as officers had drawn on her. She is 32 - a grown adult with many years of experience. Not some teenager that has little to no experience. It's completely unbelievable and it just gets worse from there.
She then defies the reasonable orders from her Captain and goes AWOL, to bust him out of jail with a rolling pin. She has no plan whatsoever for this, beyond using a reporter to help her break in. Granted, she has little time to plot, but the sister of the Pirate says they could go to the countryside to escape, that's reasonable. Of course, she doesn't even consider this plan but holds up an engineer at gun point and illegally steals a random ship at port. Instead of going 'home' to the ship she serves on to find the Pirate some justice, she decides to fly off to one of these 'Pirate' ships. Why? Because she had a falling out with her captain and doesn't trust him, despite serving with him for 7 years and being best of friends during that time. This is after I don't know how many times it is mentioned that the people on the ship are family and she trusts and loves them.
At this point, she's completely destroyed her prestigious 10 year career(becoming the chief of engineering), broken a number of laws, threatened to kill an an investigator, beat said investigator unconscious in a jailbreak, turned her back on the only family she loves... FOR A MAN SHE HAS KNOWN FOR TWENTY-FOUR HOURS. At this point, I honestly cannot see how anyone reading this can see her as being other than mentally unstable or so unbelievable that the story is ruined.
During the escape, the Pirate is surprised by something the MC does. The jarring disbelief kicks right back in, tearing you from the narrative. You've known her for twenty-four hours, how do you know her well enough to be able to expect any of her reactions? Every three chapters this sort of narrative or thought pops up, you'll be rolling your eyes constantly. Here's an example quoted from the book about 75% in. They have known each other for approximately thirty-six hours.
After a moment he saw her posture begin to soften, her hands opening up. She turned around. He could still see anger in her face, and frustration, but he caught a glimpse of sympathy there as well. She took a step toward him again.
"Because you are kind," she said firmly. "Because you are strong, and you are honest and brave and you stand up and do what must be done. Because you trust me to do the same. Because you've stood next to me through all of this, looking at me like I really am strong enough to do it. Also," she finished, "because you make the best lemon hazelnut custard I have ever tasted."
GUOUGHHHHH. Just typing that made me nauseous! What is this s***?!!? Remember her recent aversion in trusting people? The captain she fought through thick and thin with over 7 years but had a recent falling out and doesn't trust him?? She knows this guy for thirty-six hours and knows all these things about him?!?! I can't even! I'm done pointing out levels of absurdity this novel will reach. Just don't bother with the book.
Really though, any military would have weeded out the main characters early in training. None of these characters had basic discipline, sense of duty, or understanding of rank. Sexy old guys of higher rank love the main character's emotional outbursts though, because... honestly I don't know why.
There was no hard science fiction, no military, just Twilight-esque love at first site style romance.
The storyline is fascinating; so much so, I couldn’t put it down, and am now excited to start on the sequel.
If you enjoy character driven Sc/Fi, try, “The Cold Between.”
I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Elizabeth Bonesteel’s debut novel, The Cold Between, is blurbed by a RITA award winner and begins, after a prologue, with the main character, Elena, being picked up in a bar by the mysterious Trey Zajec (the picture to the left is from the excellent cover depiction of them). They’re soon having sex, in a lengthy scene that nonetheless reveals little about their characters. Is this sci-fi, romance, or both?
I can think of some excellent crossovers– Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor being an example– but I was worried this book might prove “too much romance, not enough roller derby,” to borrow a phrase. I needn’t have worried. While Bonesteel doesn’t have Bujold’s flair for characterization, relying too much on telling about each character from the point of view of the others rather than showing, she’s a much smoother prose stylist. And the plot soon picks up, with murders, wormholes, and mysterious explosions. I also enjoyed the heroine being an army mechanic, an unusual occupation which comes in handy at various points.
The setting is a Russian-influenced future space colony, and I was amused to see some characters’ last names taken directly from Russian politics, like Putin and Limonov. While the villains of the story were too obvious for my liking, both in terms of their identities and their motivations, they did have a few redeeming qualities and interesting povs. For example, one villain refuses to be part of the heroes’ plans to thwart a technology that could be world-ending…or life-saving. I really liked that the hypotenuse of the love triangle, Elena’s captain Greg, gets to be a strong and likable character despite Elena not being attracted to him.
Ultimately, the weakness of this story is in the tell-don’t-show characterization. Rather than letting us see their attraction in their actions, Bonesteel has Trey and Elena mentally praise each other– a tactic that didn’t work for me in Graveyard Sparrow, either. Nor is the character development subtle. One particularly obvious quote: “His heart warmed, and all of his insecurity washed away as if it had never been.”
However, there’s plenty of action and tension, all in a very readable style, and Bonesteel ties up the plot while leaving plenty for the sequel to explore. I’ll probably be reading the sequel, Remnants of Trust, when it comes out later this year.
And as to the genre question? I’m waiting for later books to resolve that. The Cold Between doesn’t have the Happily Ever After or Happy For Now ending required of genre romance, but we’ll see what happens as the series goes on.