Book Review: Disintegration by J. E. Purrazzi
J. E. Purrazzi delivers yet another exciting cyberpunk adventure with the latest installment of her Malfunction Trilogy. I was so excited to see what would happen to Cowl, Menrva, and Bas after the events of Malfunction, and it took me a little longer than I expected to get around to actually reading this, but I was excited to dive in. The story picks right up with instant conflict and questions as each of the three protagonists deal with the consequences of the events of the first book in their own way. For me, Menrva's story was particularly interesting, and I definitely felt like she had some of the most difficult decisions to make as things progressed. While I didn't always agree with some of her decisions, there was never a time where I couldn't understand her perspective and her choices, and I think that speaks to how carefully and how well Purrazzi has crafted her characters. Not just Menrva, but all of them.
This is a series where there are no easy answers. There's no black and white and no clear-cut Good vs Evil. But man, are the antagonists scary! Eris was a fantastic adversary and I loved the chaos that ensued every time she showed up. (In hindsight, anyways. In the moment, I was terrified for everyone involved.) I'm not someone who really gets scared by monsters and ghosts and things of that nature, but there was definitely something unnerving about her that made me feel unsettled, and that's the kind of thing that tends to scare me more. So that was fun. And then there's Nolan, who is absolutely The Worst™ and who works so well as an antagonist - and a scary one - because there are plenty of people just like him in real life. Pitting the characters against such terrifying foes definitely made for a wild ride, and no one makes it out without their fair share of scars, both visible and invisible.
Disintegration is a good book, and there were several things I loved about it. But honestly, I just didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the previous book in the series or its prequel novella, Revelation. One of the reasons I loved those stories was that the relationships between the characters were such a central focus of the story, serving as a driving force for all of their actions and choices. We got to see those relationships grow and change and develop to account for whatever was happening externally, but the focus always seemed to remain on the character relationships. While that's still true to some extent in Disintegration, Menrva, Bas, and Cowl aren't actually together in the same scene very often, and when they are, there's so much else going on that we barely get a chance to see them interact with each other. Or at least, not as much as I would have liked. And that kind of goes along with the other thing I struggled with in this book. The pacing, or more specifically, the action. It just felt a little...off to me, and it's hard to explain exactly why. I felt like I was being rushed from one heart-pounding action scene to the next, but then once we actually got there, the action itself almost seem to drag or become repetitive and tedious. I found myself wanting a little more reflection from the characters, a little more of an opportunity for them to interact with each other and see those relationships I loved so much, especially towards the end of the book. That's probably not what every reader wants, and I'm sure it's just a matter of my own preference more than anything else, but those were some of the things I personally struggled with while reading Disintegration.
For me, I'd probably give the book 3.5 stars. But I think the 4 stars I'm rounding up to are easily justified. It's well-written and the characters feel authentic and three-dimensional. I really appreciate how the author is able to give each POV character their own distinct voice so that you can tell exactly whose perspective you're in at any given time. The ending brings both a satisfying sense of hope and an equally powerful sense of dread, leaving readers to wonder what's in store for the characters in the next book. I look forward to seeing all the excitement that is sure to unfold in the final book of this trilogy.