Review: Shock & Awe (or When the Title Is Perfect)
I am ecstatic to have had the opportunity to review Abi Roux's newest book. I took notes! I made plans for this post! I called characters names! Even things I knew in advance were coming??? They wrecked me. Happily, not as wrecked as the week-long trauma that came from Touch & Geaux, but wrecked all the same.
Shock & Awe started out as familiar. Slightly less familiar to those of us who read and reread the "Who's sailing this ship" piece after Touch & Geaux's release in the spring — it was changed up quite a bit, edited, new bits added in, clarified, and polished until it gleamed.
Follow me through the jump for a spoiler-light glimpse into the lives of Nick O'Flaherty and Kelly Abbott!
So, Shock & Awe opens up where we've seen — Kelly and Nick are back at Kelly's house following the events of Touch & Geaux. But between spring and now there have been changes made! Since the original posting, the story has been cleaned up and edited, yes, but it's also had a lot of clarification inserted. It becomes much more clear where Kelly is mentally on this venture. Nick's skittishness is touched on, and there is additional information on Kelly's subconscious processing — that he's been thinking about this, and it's not as "out of left field" as some readers might have thought. It works out extremely well, and fits together perfectly. We get to see things like Nick feeling vulnerable, and we hear of Kelly as "the big spoon" in earlier days.
Now, as the story is more than just the pieces we've seen — and, in fact, covers all the way out to Sidewinder departing on their flight (sans Zane and Kelly) — the familiar feeling leaves off as well. But it's okay, because it's a lot like rereading a book you loved — like there are things there you didn't catch the first time around. Truthfully, the new additions make the story feel more real. It's much easier to get inside Nick's head than it was before. And it's kind of surprising to find that not much goes on in Kelly's head that isn't broadcast straightaway — almost like he's missing a filter — and it's a challenge for him to keep things on the down low.
The story takes us through those first few days home, moves on to the delivery of Nick's orders, and continues to the moment of separation. Nick, it seems, was keeping a hell of a secret as well — it makes perfect sense, considering whom we know Nick to be, but it still elicited an outright (out loud!) shout of "NICK! You SHIT!" Mercifully, we're not left long waiting on resolution, and the book ends... happily? As happily as a book can end when the focus characters are split, one heading off to who-knows-where, the other going back home to see what life brings.
Shock & Awe, on its own, is a sweet book. It's not sweet in the saccharine sense, though. It's the kind of sweet we've learned to expect from Abi Roux, the kind of sweet that lets you see if you are paying attention. The background "tough guys aren't being sweet, dammit" story that can be missed if you don't feel like seeing it. It's very obviously a story about two men who care very much for each other, maybe more than they thought.
Included in the Shock & Awe download was an expanded version of Bait & Switch — the ficlet Abi's Minions earned for their participation in All-Star voting this summer. I can't say much about it without spoiling things fairly heavily, but suffice it to say it definitely belongs with Shock & Awe, and oh, WOW. It was exactly what I needed it to be — without my realizing it needed to be anything at all!
Truth be told, I spent this book in a blur. I won't go the cliché and say "I laughed, I cried...", but I will say the book was a wonderful whirlwind of learning who our characters are, learning their dynamic, and watching them sort out what might be blooming between them. I cannot express to you how much I loved this book. How much I am dying for more. How much I am waiting to see "Sidewinder #2" become available for pre-order so I can jump right on that. I don't even know if there will be a number two yet, but the second there's wind, I know I'll be hunting for it.
Shock & Awe? The title absolutely fits the book, and this is an absolute MUST READ. Without hesitation, this is a wonderful book, that I can't possibly be effusive enough about — though I'm going to stop there before someone gets sick or utterly tired of my fangirling (totally worth the fangirling, by the way).
Wench Care's Rating —