Of Friction

Fiction - Dystopia
404 Pages
Reviewed on 03/25/2024
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Of Friction is a work of fiction in the dystopian, conspiracy thriller, and suspense subgenres. The work is best suited to mature adult readers owing to the presence of explicit language throughout, as well as scenes of graphic violence, death, and mentions of substance abuse. Penned by author S.J. Lee, this bold and interesting work explores decades of hostilities and the chance for peace amidst belligerent groups. Sam ‘Valkyrie’ Ryan, a recon specialist, grapples with personal and professional challenges as she navigates a pivotal reconciliation summit between Altered and Human factions while combating human-supremacist terrorists.

Author S.J. Lee has crafted a superb work of dystopian thriller fiction that expertly weaves together all the precision and sharpness of great military fiction with compelling character dynamics and a tense, fast-paced plot. Sam is a complex and relatable protagonist, struggling with her emotions while fulfilling her duties in a volatile and dangerous world, and I enjoyed the way her speech and thoughts were portrayed to give us a deeply personal look at her journey. The tension escalates with a fantastically sharp pace to the plot, and although I could never quite predict the twists that were coming, there were plenty of clues laid to make each revelation feel realistic and really satisfying. The slow-burn LGBTQ+ romance was a pleasant addition that never felt gimmicky, but added a lot of nuance and originality to the narrative, enhancing the emotional stakes and character development all the more. Overall, Of Friction is a thrilling and thought-provoking read that leaves a lasting impression, and I would highly recommend it to dystopian fiction fans seeking a unique new read.

Essien Asian

Caught in the middle of a decades-long war for control between humans and their genetically modified creations, Sam Ryan is only interested in completing each assignment she gets from the United Military Federation. This organization specializes in protecting what remains of the human population with its well-trained troops. Her latest assignment involves securing the venue and personnel for an upcoming summit between rival factions that are key to ending the war. Sam is about to discover how complicated this war is when she and her brother Scott join the Echo Team. Scott’s recent decision that this will be his final assignment implies that this will not be business as usual for the battle-hardened siblings in S.J. Lee’s Of Friction.

S.J. Lee creates an entertaining and immersive story about a post-apocalyptic Earth. Lee's writing style submerges the reader in the chaos, giving them the impression of walking through the charred streets of Matam alongside Echo Team members. The military-style language, wrapped in dry humor, highlights the lively banter between the characters. The plot's development is impressive, incorporating the activities of the Children of Charon and the Altered, two prominent factions in this war, struggling to rein in their members in one subplot. There is an emotional subplot in this adventure when Sam comes to terms with her brother’s actions. Of Friction stands out because Lee allows readers to select whom they feel should be the antagonists in this complex adventure. One example is the COC representative asking Krill whose version of the truth he will follow. These elements combine to create a captivating read. Of Friction will enthrall readers who enjoy military and dystopian adventures.

Romuald Dzemo

Of Friction by S.J. Lee is a meld of science fiction and romance set against the backdrop of a fractured society divided between Humans and the Altered. The story follows protagonist Sam “Valkyrie” Ryan as she confronts not only external threats but also the fissures within her own identity. Sam must safeguard a crucial peace summit and she must contend with the fallout of her brother's decision to abandon their shared path within the United Military Federation. It is hard for her to accept Scott's betrayal and she cannot understand why he wants out. Sam must confront her own weaknesses even as she faces external adversaries. With the growing number of extremists and enemies, does she stand a chance at protecting precious lives?

Lee infuses the narrative with moments of intense action and superb character development that will keep readers following the story from page to page. From pulse-pounding encounters with human-supremacist terrorists to quiet moments of reflection amidst the chaos, the novel strikes a steady balance that keeps readers engaged from start to finish. Sam's evolving relationship with Miriam takes a prominent place in the plot. Miriam is a charming medic whose presence complicates Sam's already tumultuous journey. Their burgeoning romance creates the emotional depth and tension that moves the story forward. I loved the intelligence with which the author explores the theme of love and connection amidst the chaos of war. The world-building is impeccable and it offers readers glimpses of a future that is possible and both eerily familiar and tantalizingly alien. The introduction of the Altered—a new species born from humanity's ingenuity—is a unique twist on the dystopian genre. From the complex conflict, explored at multiple levels, to the intriguing characters and the finely drawn setting, Of Friction by S.J. Lee offers an unforgettable reading experience. It is a delightful tale for fans of science fiction.

Asher Syed

Of Friction by S.J. Lee is set in a world besieged by an escalating environmental crisis, where a Marine named Sam confronts personal upheaval as her brother Scott opts to depart their unit, leaving her feeling betrayed. Enlisted in a mission with RazorEcho to investigate heightened COC activity along the border, the team is in a constant state of conflict between wicked terrain and Charonites, led by a formidable woman named Shrew. Suspicions brew regarding SecTeam's involvement. The team divides to inspect Altered technology and settlement defenses with resistance and signs of danger mounting. Lobbed with communication interference and violent confrontations, Sam receives a further blow that digs up old skeletons. Pushing on, the mission takes a perilous turn in New Zapala, and, with uncertainty choking like a fog and concerns over Legion involvement rising, Sam's internal and external threats bubble over as the team works to safeguard themselves and a dangerously fragile unity against a common adversary.

S.J. Lee tosses out a unique concept in Of Friction, one where genetic engineering in response to an environmental crisis results in the creation of a new subspecies of humans known as the Altered. Now, the original humans find themselves marginalized in a world where the Altered possess distinct advantages with all the inequality, power grabs, and societal upheaval that comes with radical biological transformation. The world-building is spectacular and there is quite a bit of landscape along the way, the standout being a network of underground passages that, despite bouts of second-hand claustrophobia as a reader, we see a fine example of stealth and subterfuge from Sam and Scott collectively. And while we're talking about Scott, now that's a character who deserves a prequel. There's a lot of baggage there with a beautifully painted moral grey area that challenges the traditional notions of right and wrong. The book ends on a crackerjack of a twist that promises to pick up when book two of the Altered Earth series comes out, which I hope is soon. Very highly recommended.

Grant Leishman

Of Friction by S.J. Lee is a captivating science-fiction story that creates a potential future for humanity that many will identify with. Sam “Valkyrie” Ryan has been a Marine for most of her life it seems, having joined the United Military Federation (UMF) when she was just 12, following her half-brother Scott into the Corps. After decades of hostilities between those who had been genetically altered and the humans, there finally appeared to be an opportunity for lasting peace with a summit between the warring parties about to begin. Sam and her brother have become a tight team and are temporarily assigned to a small force sent out into the hinterlands to ensure that nothing occurs to upset the forthcoming summit. Sam, devastated by her half-brother's announcement that this would be his last mission with the Corps and that he was retiring, is upset and angry but she must put that aside as she tries to fit into the dynamics of the new team. Deeply attracted to Miriam, the beautiful female medic in the team, Sam must focus and keep her wits about her as the team moves into dangerous territory and discovers a plot to destroy all humanity.

Of Friction is my type of science-fiction story. I much prefer stories light on speculative and weird tech and heavy on character development and narrative. Author S.J. Lee has produced such a story with this book. The backstories of the characters, especially Sam and Scott, are allowed to develop organically and as a natural part of the story, which makes for greater depth and identification with the characters. I particularly enjoyed that many of the main characters are strong, independent, and capable women who not only hold their own in a tough military environment but, indeed, can excel and surpass their male comrades frequently. I loved the slow-burning romance between Sam and Miriam which was electric as well as being confusing and distracting for both of them. Sam and Scott’s relationship was also a vital part of the narrative and their shared history, especially with their abusive father, went a long way toward explaining their close and deep connection. The story moves at a good pace and there are plenty of action sequences to engage readers who like their adrenaline fix but, equally, there are gentle, thoughtful passages during which the combatants reflect on the deeper aspects of their lives and the state of the world in which they live. This is the beginning of a series involving these characters and their world and the author has made an excellent start. I look forward to future iterations and can highly recommend this read.