Book Review: Deep State Stealth

Deep State Stealth
Nanostealth
#4
by Vikki Kestell

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Christian sci-fi thriller

Nano 4

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the series–Stealthy Steps, Stealth Power, and Stealth Retribution.

Now that Gemma (make that Jayda) and Zander are both super-powered and married, they’re all set to save the president’s life (again). Tasked with rooting out the conspiracy that did not end with the death of the vice president, Jayda will go undercover in the NSA. Will she and Zander be able to root out the corruption and get out of the espionage business?

I struggled with this book quite a bit early on. I almost gave up on it after the first few chapters. But I stuck with it, and when the storyline about the conspiracy involving the president got going, the story picked up. In the end, though, this was the weakest book in the series, in my opinion.

This book has the odd distinction of being a bit too religious for me, and yet having some things that made me uncomfortable, especially in a Christian book. I’m not against Christianity in a book by any means. But in a book of this type, it’s much better off being spread out, rather than shoved at the reader all at once, which is how the beginning of the book felt. But even while that was happening, there were discussions of and references to the newlyweds’ “nap times” that were just too much for me–both near the beginning, and later in the book too (nothing graphic, but uncomfortable). And throughout the book, there was a lot of “bleeped” cussing. I know that Christian authors have to decide how to handle real-world language in their books, and Kestell’s approach isn’t a bad one, but there was a lot of it. And my mind does fill in the missing words, so I got a point where I was irritated by the amount of cuss words the book was putting into my head.

I don’t mean to imply that the book was bad, though. It provided more resolution to the rest of the series than I expected. There was a reveal later in the book that I thought was going to turn out to be anti-climactic, but was pretty interesting. And going into this book, I was really worried about the way the 2 clouds of nanomites behaved at the end of the previous book–almost like a form of sibling rivalry, and I was happy to see that that was largely downplayed in this book. Like with the previous book, the main plot was engaging, and I really liked the way Jayda and Zander utilized the nanomites.

One more thing–like with the previous book, this one is written in mixed perspectives. Most of it is 1st-person from Jayda’s point of view, with some 3rd-person if the author wanted to show things happening with other characters. For as strange as it was in the previous book, it was even more strange in this one, as more than once, Jayda herself was referenced in one of the 3rd-person sections, and it took me out of the story, since she’s the character whose eyes we view most of the story through. The writing style in general really isn’t for me.

Looking back at the series as a whole, it has its pros and cons. The story itself was good–I really liked the premise, especially the initial accidental invisibility, and Gemma learning to work with the mites. The author’s style and insertion of religion detracted from the series overall, but I think many other Christians wouldn’t be so bothered by the things that bothered me. Be sure to check out other reviews if you’re interested, as there are many positive ones for this series.

Find out more about Deep State Stealth

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Stealth Retribution

Finished Reading: Stealth Retribution
Nanostealth
#3
by Vikki Kestell

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian sci-fi thriller

Stealth Ret

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first 2 books in the series, Stealthy Steps and Stealth Power.

Again picking up where the previous book left off, right there in the cave where the nanomites and Gemma became Super-Gemma, she and her friends hatch a plan to start thwarting the evil military general who has been after the nanomites’ creator and, due to the mites infesting Gemma, after her too. Gemma is about to have more on her hands than escaping General Cushing, though, as a young friend of hers is in danger, and her own twin sister is in town to muck things up as well.

I enjoyed this book through most of it. I really liked the way the storyline with Cushing played out, taking Super-Gemma from Albuquerque to the White House and back. By the end of this book, I could easily compare it to a comic book super hero origin story. If my review and rating were based just on the resolution regarding Dr. Bickel and Cushing, I would have given it 4 stars, maybe more. However, things got really weird on the theology side of the story, and I felt very strange about the whole thing by the end.

I thought it a little odd at the end of Stealth Power, when Gemma became a Christian, and then the nanomites felt the presence of Jesus inside her. But I let it go, accepted it as the fiction that it is, and moved on. But by the 2nd half or so of this book, the nanomites are receiving instructions from Jesus. Surrendering their will to Jesus. And…being forgiven by Jesus? It took a lot more suspension of disbelief than I prefer to swallow all of that. Add to that the fact that the associate pastor who was once my favorite character had become simply a vehicle for faith-professing in the book, and even as a Christian, I felt very Bible-thumped (I don’t know if that works in this context, but I’m sure it’s clear what I mean). And in the end, I have no idea what the real purpose of Gemma’s twin, Genie, was in this book, other than to be another convert for Zander’s cause.

The first book was mostly in 1st-person from Gemma’s point of view, with a little 3rd-person if the author wanted to show things happening with other characters. This was explained in the fact that Gemma was keeping a journal of everything happened after she became invisible. However, the journal aspect was sort of abandoned in book 2, and by this point, it’s more like half-1st person, half-3rd person. Which is strange and confusing. The writing style as a whole still put me off a bit, especially in the 1st-person parts. It’s incredibly casual and conversational. In the end, I think the author’s style isn’t really for me, but the story about the nanomites, the invisibility, and Gemma escaping the bad guy is unique and interesting! I only wish there hadn’t been so much else to bog it down.

The series continues on for one more book (at this time), which from the synopsis is clear is a divergent from the main story arc in the first three. I plan to read it soon, because I did come this far. At this point, I would still recommend the series to fans of Christian mysteries & thrillers and lovers of this type of sci-fi, especially since I think many others wouldn’t be so bothered by the things that bothered me. Some other reviews do mention being put off by the nanomites’ seeming religious experience, but also express that the story outside of that is good.

Find out more about Stealth Retribution

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Stealth Power

Finished Reading: Stealth Power
Nanostealth
#2
by Vikki Kestell

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian sci-fi thriller

Stealth Power

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, Stealthy Steps.

Picking up immediately where the previous book left off, Gemma hides out in a safe house while planning to rescue Dr. Bickel, along with another monumental task that presents itself as the story goes on. The only trouble is…she’s still invisible. She must learn the best ways to navigate a visible world, while also learning to co-exist with the nanotechnology that she has so far fought against, if she’s going to accomplish her goals–and get her life back.

I definitely enjoyed this book more than the first. Most of the information is out there (being dumped into the first book), and we’re left with just the continuing story of Gemma and the mites (good band name, no?). The relationships that we were introduced to in the first book were continued enough to make me happy, with the addition of a new character who became one of my favorites. The writing style isn’t my favorite, but in the end, I was glad to have read this, and look forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

Gemma herself bugged me during a lot of this book. I mentioned in my review of the first book that she came across like a petulant child, and that only got worse in this one. The sections from her POV (which is most of the book) was immature, and I didn’t always enjoy it. I know there was a lot of really unpleasant stuff happening to her, but even while she was growing stronger in many ways, boy, did she whine a lot. There were also a lot of verbal tics in this book that I don’t remember from the first one–a lot of “um”s in the dialog. It only led to a further frustration with Gemma, and there’s a reason most authors don’t write dialog that realistically. It’s annoying to read.

The associate pastor, Zander, was probably my favorite character from the first book. That took a small turn for me in this book, as his character came across as simply a vehicle for preaching Christ to the other characters, and to the reader. I’m not saying there aren’t people in real life who would have talked exactly as he did, but he became a bit confrontational when talking to Gemma’s evil twin sister, and I felt it was a bit much. My favorite character in this one, then, was the new guy in this book, an FBI agent.

My favorite thing about the first book was Gemma trying to communicate with the mites, and that really expanded in this book. Even while she groused at and about them, I really liked them. Maybe that’s the under-emotional side of me, to identify more with the computer than the human. My least-favorite thing about the first book was the exposition, and Gemma’s repeating of the exposition, and there was some of that in this one, but not nearly as much. The author did, however, have a tendency to recall back to a previous conversation later on, and she would pretty much always include twice as much of the original conversation as was needed.

In the end, I think it’s really the writing style that detracts the most from this series from me so far. The characters and plot I am enjoying more than enough to make up for that though. I need to try to put less time between this one and the next one than I did the first book and this one, though, because there was little in the way of reminders to what happened before. I started out really lost! Like with Stealthy Steps, I would recommend the book to fans of Christian mysteries & thrillers and lovers of this type of sci-fi.

Find out more about Stealth Power

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Stealthy Steps

Stealthy Steps
Nanostealth
#1
by Vikki Kestell

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian sci-fi thriller

I didn’t fully understand the premise of this book going into it, because the synopsis is more like a boiled-down excerpt from part of the book, with a little extra character introduction. Most of the information is there, but it’s cryptic. Here’s my synopsis though: Gemma Keyes is a young woman fresh out of college, and takes a job as a project manager at a top secret lab. She mostly organizes things and takes meeting notes, but this makes her privy to some classified information. When she hears the wrong information (not her fault), she is fired. Months later, after an accident in the same lab claimed the lives of the 2 top scientists she was working for, she’s contacted covertly by one of those scientists, Dr. Bickel (obviously not dead). She ends up being asked to help him continue his work, which he’s keeping secret from everyone at this point. This work is in nanotechnology. When the government, and in particular, a nasty military general who has no scruples about how she gets information & technology for her military, closes in on Gemma and the man she’s helping, an unexpected incident leaves her invisible. Literally. (Some people see the invisibility aspect as a spoiler, but it’s how the prologue ends, so I see it as part of the set up.)

So…now Gemma has to figure out how to live life completely invisible, which presents all sorts of problems, especially since she practically lives in a fish bowl. Half of the book is about this, as well as her concern about being discovered by the general who went after Dr. Bickel. This half of the book is entertaining and interesting. I liked the relationships Gemma developed both before and after her invisibility. My favorite thing was the ways she tried to communicate with the nanotechnology that is responsible for her uncontrollable invisibility.

The first half of the book had some interesting parts as well–especially the relationships that began and/or developed between Gemma and Dr. Bickel, Gemma and the associate pastor of her old church (more on that below), and an established relationship between Gemma and an older neighbor. However, the first half of the book was bogged down heavily by a lot of exposition and repetition.

First, there is a long and tedious description of how Gemma first got into the secret, abandoned military based where Dr. Bickel directed her to meet him. It might not have been so bad, had we not already given given those steps (most of them), but backward. Then there are the 37-8 pages of Dr. Bickel talking and explaining. Explaining how he avoided dying in the lab explosion, explaining how he got himself set up in this mountain base, and longest of all, explaining how the nanotechnology works. In detail. That most of us reading aren’t going to really follow. Some of it did prove to be important to the rest of the story, but honestly, much of it wasn’t. (At one point, after about 33 pages of explanation,  Bickel says, “‘Would you like to hear more about the nanomites before you go, Gemma?'” And I literally thought, “I wish could say no.”) Since the book is told in 1st person, and Gemma didn’t understand a lot of what he said, I have a very difficult time believing that when she wrote this account some weeks or months later, she could remember all of the science that he spouted. It could have definitely been boiled down for us, and even more so, would have then fit in with the style of narration that the rest of the book has.

Much of the information in the first half of the book would have been okay on its own, but since it was all told together in the first half, it made it difficult to keep reading. I totally understand why the prologue is a long description of the point when Dr. Bickel is discovered in his secret lab by the general, ending with Gemma finding herself invisible. It needed that action and intrigue to get people hooked. Still, if I hadn’t been recommended this book series by my mom who has recently been very anxious for me to read it so she could hear what I thought, I might have at least set it down and come back to it later. As such, once you’re past that half of the book, it does get more interesting. It’s the first book in a short series, so some of the expositiony first part can be explained as set-up to an entire series, and it does have an ending that left me wanting to know more. Still, I think setting up an entire series isn’t an excuse for so much info-dump all at once.

The associate pastor I mentioned above, named Zander, is where the Christian aspect of the book comes in, for the most part. He’s invited to visit Gemma by her older neighbor, and he is a good example of a Christian in fiction. He is generous, compassionate, flawed, and complicated. Gemma sees a lot of sides of him, some of which draw her to him, but others of which push her away. His very Christianity is the biggest obstacle to their developing relationship, though, because Gemma is quite against Christianity. He speaks the truth in love, and shows Christ’s love through his action, while still being a believable human being. I look forward to seeing how this develops in the rest of the series.

I was particularly bothered by some of Gemma’s actions in this book, and the way she excused them, but I think that was intentional. She also got angry, or at least upset, at weird things, which made her seem like sort of a petulant child to me sometimes. I don’t know if that part of her personality was intentional or not. There were a few inconsistencies that stuck out to me (like why Dr. Bickel let Gemma take pictures in his secret lab, after the intense precautions he’d asked her to take in getting there, and in their communications). Also, I feel the need to give some trigger warnings: domestic abuse, child neglect and endangerment, descriptions of or allusions to gang violence.

So to sum up, yes, the first half of the book was slow, but the rest was good enough, and I have faith that the following books will pick up the pace, that I felt the book was worthy of 3.5 stars. I would recommend the book to fans of Christian mysteries & thrillers and lovers of this type of sci-fi.

Find out more about Stealthy Steps

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!