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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Killswitch" by Joel Shepherd

Joel Shepherd’s Blog
Learn about “KillswitchHERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s REVIEW of “Breakaway
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s INTERVIEW with Joel Shepherd

It’s been two years since the monumental events that took place in “Breakway” and at the start of “Killswitch”, the third and final volume in the Cassandra Kresnov trilogy by Australian science fiction/fantasy writer Joel Shepherd, the civilian planet Callay is in the midst of a great change only a year away from becoming the new capital world of the Federation. In preparation of the Federation Grand Council permanently relocating to the planet, the Callayan Defence Force (CDF) has been established. Unfortunately, the CDF is still a work-in-progress and security remains an issue especially regarding all of the opposing factions at play—Earth vs. Callay, Earth vs. the Federation, anti/pro-League sentiment, et cetera. Compounding the problem is the presence of Fifth Fleet whose motives for being in orbit around the planet are at best, questionable. Caught in the middle of this mess is our heroine Cassandra KresnovSandy to her friends—the ex-League GI who first dazzled readers in “Crossover” and is now CDF’s second-in-command as well as the special security adviser to President Neiland.

If you read my review of “BreakawayHERE, you’ll see that I had some issues with the book such as its lack of action, multiple point-of-views and overall balance. While politics and philosophical musings remain at the heart of “Killswitch”, Mr. Shepherd shows much better restraint this time around and has drastically upped the ante with the story, which is a great deal more intense and electrifying than its predecessors. For one, we learn that Cassandra’s life is in danger, and not only does she have to worry about assassination attempts, but Sandy discovers she has a killswitch embedded in her brainstem and a GI to deal with who may be even more dangerous than she is. To make matters worse, an elaborate plot is underway, one that would undermine Callay’s competence as the new seat of Federation authority and sanction a Fleet blockade that would not only be crippling to the planet’s economy, but could also incite a civil war. Uncovering who’s behind the conspiracy and how to thwart them is all part of the fun along with ambushes by mobile killing machines, deadly GI versus GI combat and space warfare...

As far as the characters, thankfully Mr. Shepherd goes back to using more than one narrative so while Sandy is once again the main attraction, Captain Reichardt of the Third Fleet, Vanessa Rice, Ari Ruben, President Neiland and a couple of minor roles all take a turn which I think helps with the book’s pacing and in providing different perspectives of what’s going on politically. Disappointingly, aside from Sandy’s continuing growth and contemplation of what it means to be human, and the progression of Sandy’s League GI friend Rhian Chu, the development of characters & relationships is very modest though Joel does throw in a wrinkle or two to complicate Cassandra’s personal life even further ;)

As a whole, when you add up the higher stakes, an increased amount of pulse-pounding action, the return of the multiple POVs, improved prose & plotting, and the once again smartly conceived politics & thematic observations, what you have in “Killswitch” is a novel that is easily the best out of the trilogy. Obviously though, it’s recommended that you read “Crossover” and “Breakaway” first since most everything that happens in those two books leads up to the events in “Killswitch”. While “Killswitch” closes out the series successfully, I was surprised a bit at how much was still left unanswered. I guess this is good news because even though the author doesn’t have any immediate plans to return to the world of Cassandra Kresnov, at least the opportunity to do so is there. For now, Joel Shepherd is busy finishing his fantasy tetralogy, A Trial of Blood & Steel—“Sasha” (Volume One) was released August 2007 in Australia—and I personally can’t wait until it’s available stateside. In the meantime, I recommend giving Ms. Kresnov a spin. Even though the trilogy has its highs & lows, ultimately the books are a rewarding time that challenges the mind as much as it gets the heart racing…


Chris, The Book Swede said...

I really enjoyed Crossover, so I'm glad the series goes out on a high :) I'm reading Infoquake now :D


SQT said...

I'm not normally a huge fan of the more sci-fi themed novels (preferring fantasy) but I've been eyeballing this one.

Robert said...

Ah, Infoquake is a book that I'd like to read :) Thanks for reminding me Chris!

Theresa, it's a strong series. Grounded a bit more in reality than in the fantastical, but that's part of its charm :)

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