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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Combining two full-length novels in the same Cool Assassins speculative fiction series, J.O. Quantaman offers up Spin-Off: Cool Assassins 1 & 2, containing book one, Loose Threads, and book two, Hot Wheels. The story is set about fifty years in the future with a fluctuating, non-linear timeline and revolves primarily around a former, trafficked sex worker turned rescued warrior named Nyssa. Dog-Breakfast is an elite co-op that operates in a universe of corporate tyranny and Nyssa's journey in the martial arts espionage and execution squad, alongside her past, are explored within this world in great detail. Nyssa remains a hunted target but is no longer alone. An acrobat named Jen, the de facto leader of Dog-Breakfast named Cook, and partners Meg and Subie round out her surroundings, among many others. The plot is a convergence of Nyssa's 'then' and 'now', dancing between Kazuo and her Dog-Breakfast training, and her growth within the dichotomy of both lives. A huge twist is revealed at this point among many smaller ones that come to light along the way. Two Dog-Breakfast members nearly fall into an oligarch trap and the ensuing revenge that ravages the ordinary is deadly to everyday citizens and becomes a trigger in Dog-Breakfast's race to stamp out the unruly rulers.
Spin-Off is a goliath of a novel with each book tapping in at just above and just below the five-hundred-page count mark. Most of this is the result of intensive descriptive narratives employed by J.O. Quantaman to build a complex world that embodies a futuristic setting on Earth and beyond, complex technology that features throughout the science fiction elements, and a hierarchy of politicking and power that carries with it a social structure that would seriously excite a room full of anthropologists. The framework is solid even when the details do sometimes wander. The best part is absolutely the latter half/second novel, which is fast-paced and full of incredible action. Quantaman is deftly skilled in the art of the fight and chase scenes and between the first half of Spin-Off and the second you can really witness his maturity as a writer in near real-time. He gets bonus points for the strength of a solid cast of female protagonists. This book requires a lot of trust and commitment from a reader, but once engaged it becomes impossible to put down. Recommended.