I was worried that IAN, the AI, wouldn't play much of a role given the excerpt of this novel given out for the Hugo packet. So I took it out of the library, and quite frankly blew through this. I disagree about the flashbacks. I say disagree, and what I mean is I read at least one review about how great it was to learn about them in the past.
I was far more interested in the present, and while I didn't particularly mind the flashbacks, I found a couple a bit too drawn out and I found myself starting to get bored.
However, this is a minor complaint. This is a mystery set on a spaceship in a universe where people can clone themselves, put their memories in the new bodies, and voila, new life. When you die and wake up in a new cloned body, it's called a wake. (And you can only wake in your own body; in this universe, there are issues in going into other bodies, those issues being going crazy.)
Criminals are chosen to go on the first ever generation ship: they will be cloned as much as needed until they get to a new body, and then clone their crew. The proper memories will be put in the proper bodies, and hey, new colony. And the criminals will no longer have to live as criminals on this new world.
But just in case something goes wrong, the super sophisticated AI, IAN, will run the ship and be able to protect the criminals from, well, their criminal tendencies. And it all works, until they all wake up in a bloody room. They've been killed, someone has thrown the emergency switch that will clone them and wake them. IAN is malfunctioning, and their cloning tech has been destroyed. Their memories of the twenty five years they've been on the ship have been erased. These are their last lives, unless they can manage to fix IAN and fix the tech, or at least find a way around it.
It's a pretty tight mystery and a fun book as they try to figure out which of the crew members is the murderer, as well as worrying about how much time they have left. And IAN comes into play pretty heavily in the end, so I was super into that part. Especially since I didn't see how he was going to play into the story until it was revealed: I was pleasantly surprised by his origin story, so to speak.
Knocked down one half star for feeling like it lagged a bit during the flashbacks. They wouldn't stop me from rereading this, but they bothered me enough to knock off a half a star.
Joaquin Ramirez, I-Team's resident photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner, arrives at a supposed-homicide-with-body-disappearance scene, only to be met with anger by a bystander. Turns out, the woman knows the victim and is the last one to have seen the man alive.
Mia Starr dislikes photojournalists. She's seen first hand, what an unscrupulous photo bug can do to get a story, but Joaquin seems to be different, and quickly turns out to be different, since he puts her first instead of the story.
Someone is killing former soldiers and trying to pin it to Mia, and Joaquin is there to help her out. And when the killer with the grudge turns on her, it's Joaquin to stand there, between her and a bullet.
A month after the hostage situation at a Christmas party, the I-Team is back in the thick of it. This time it's Joaquin's turn to shine, and to save the day.
I never really thought about Joaquin as a main protagonist. He had sidekick and friend written all over him in the other books. I'm glad, though, I got to see this other side of him. Looks like I underestimated him, and let's face it, side by side with Julian, Marc or Zach, he didn't stand a chance.
But in his story, the hero side of him came out, alongside the salsa-dancing, and yeah, I could understand Mia perfectly. ;) He was tender and gentle when he needed to be, determinedly protective, and definitely heroic there toward the end of the book. A truly wonderful hero.
His heroine, Mia, was an acquired taste, with her idiosyncrasies and all her contradictions and insecurities. It took a special kind of man to show her just who and what she truly was.
I didn't really buy their rushed romance, but I'm glad they found each other in the end.
The villain also had much to be desired, although the big reveal as to his identity came as a surprise (I certainly didn't see it coming); his motive left me scratching my head&mdas;why go after all those people, instead of just focusing on Mia?
But the suspense was gripping and served as a nice little catalyst for the two protagonists to meet and for the "romance" to bloom.
The characters were great as always (I loved all the "cameos", and it's always a pleasure seeing Julian and Marc in action, complete with marital spats and bickering), the pacing spot-on, the writing superb...This one is definitely one of my favorite series.