Assassin, the latest in indie author Anela Deen’s Insurrection novelette series, might be the most absorbing installment yet. In this penultimate fourth episode, we finally get the perspective of Everett “the Albatross”, a government killer turned rebel leader. Glimpses of his dark past finally come to light and some of the shadows catch up with him. Thrills, twists, and narrow escapes ensue. Deen again demonstrates her mastery of pacing: the story’s tempo ebbs and flows in a near-perfect rhythm that kept me devouring pages until the end.
The only drag on the narrative momentum was Everett’s preoccupation with his ladylove. She’s his motivation on several planes: not only an object of desire, but the thing for which he’d sacrifice himself in an instant. His constant obsessing over her gets a tad wearisome. But hey, finding love in the midst of an interstellar rebellion can’t be easy, so I won’t judge Everett or his creator too harshly for championing lonely hearts in space. Plus, there’s plenty of action to balance the romance.
Several of Everett’s fellow assassins make a too-brief cameo appearance. These characters and their unusual background would make an interesting novella of their own (spinoff!). I was a little disappointed that Deen gave us only male assassins; however, she makes up for it by introducing a new female character named Yaren who immediately intrigued me. Hopefully the series’ final installment takes her perspective, because I want to know more about her…oh no, wait! The next one is titled Martyr, and I already like Yaren too much to see her sacrificed. How can I not love a character who engages in such delightful Han-and-Leia-esque bickering while fixing a spaceship hyperdrive mid-chase? Yes, that totally happens. And yes, I totally loved it.
That’s I admire most about Insurrection: it reminds me how delicious a well-executed space opera can be. Deen doesn’t ply her readers with pretentious concepts or obtuse, edgy writing. Her feat is more subtle and, based on my own experience as a fellow sci-fi author, more challenging. She takes the lovingly worn fixtures of our favorite science fictions—scrappy rebellions, alien invasions, laser guns, starship hangars—and makes them new again. It’s a savvy bit of literary engineering. Like the heroes’ starship, the story’s deceptively familiar parts have been refined into a sleek, swift machine that delivers one hell of a ride.