Book Review – Pico’s Crush by Carol Van Natta

The time and place:

About a thousand years from now, on the planet Nila Marbela, a beautiful vacation spot. Most of the action takes place on the campus of Optimal Polytechnic University.

The suspension of disbelief:

Humans have colonized many planets and developed space travel. Some humans have psychic powers, referred to as “minder talents.” These talents include mind control, healing, telekinetics, detection of other powers, and plenty more. Those who have them are often pressed into the Minder Corps of Citizen Protection Services: essentially the galactic police.

The quick summary:

Jerzi Adams goes to visit his daughter Pico at her university, Optimal Polytechnic. He finds out her favorite professor is a former Army buddy of his, Andra de Luna. Strange accidents involving explosions, evacs, and killer robots begin to befall the Materials Sciences and Chemistry departments. Jerzi’s colleagues Mairwen and Luka show up for a mission, and they get pulled into the mayhem as people start turning up dead. Campus becomes a dangerous place as several nefarious plots converge on the university, and it’s going to take some skill and luck for everyone to survive.

My squees:

Characters! We have two strong leads who’ve taken some knocks in life. Both have experienced romantic loss, and Jerzi’s relationship with his adult daughter is close and believable. Their chemistry and camaraderie has always been there, but they had other commitments in the past. Andra is understandably reluctant to get too close to someone who circumstances would dictate a long-distance relationship with. She manages to solve the two-body problem in a realistic fashion. She’s an interesting character on the whole: her background and skills are important during the school’s troubles, and she makes as good use of them as Jerzi does his.

Old friends and new villains also stick in the mind: we’re introduced to an excellent stable of twisted villains with credible motivations. Their story is mixed up in the continued adventures of Mairwen Morganthur and Luka Foxe, who shine again in Pico’s Crush. An adorable secondary romance between Pico and Luka’s assistant Sojaire picks up in fits and starts, with a satisfying ending.

Pico’s friends, classmates, and the kids in daycare pass through several characters’ watches during the story. They all are there for a reason, and some of them sounded cool enough to show up in further stories.

My grumbles:

Since are a ton of secondary named characters (especially the students), keeping track of all of them can get tough, especially when they are in different locations as matters go ill. Who’s where, when? I didn’t try to keep very close track of it myself, but if it’s important for your visualization processes you might want to take notes.

I adore Mairwen Morganthur, but there are times she almost overshadows Andra and Jerzi. I don’t know how I’d resolve that.

There are some premise questions I had to suspend disbelief with. Most of the characters seem to be of two or fewer nationalities recognizable today. I know that countries tended to migrate to different planets, but with space travel being around for generations, I would have expected more mixing and people from countries we haven’t founded yet. The departments in the university, and even the models of education, are pretty much the same ones we’d find today. It seems as if vast majority of human developments have been in space travel, which I had to remember and adjust for.

Read if you

  • Enjoy a friends-to-lovers slow burn
  • Sympathize with those who have to deal with Byzantine academic politics
  • Adore big space conspiracies and multi-faction machinations

Skip if you

  • Want your heat level higher than sweet
  • Shy away from violence
  • Prefer a primary focus on the love story

Disclosure and final thoughts:

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. Each entry in the Central Galactic Concordance has told a different kind of story to me, and I think this is an easily-accessible adventure suitable and enjoyable for everyone. Although the book technically stands alone, I think Pico’s Crush requires a reading of Overload Flux to get the maximum effect. Reading Minder Rising and Zero Flux beforehand is also helpful, but not as critical.

Resources: Goodreads / Amazon / Nook / Kobo / Google Play / iTunes / Amazon.UK / All Romance