The Kassa Gambit
by M.C. Planck
Cover Artist: Gregory Manchess
Review by Ernest Lilley
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765330925
Date: 08 January 2013 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Blog / Show Official Info /
Australian author M.C. Planck's debut novel, The Kassa Gambit does a fine job with a classic space opera setup with a few new wrinkles.
Prudence Fallon is captain of an interstellar freighter hopping from system to system via hyperspace nodes, ever mindful of the cost of fuel and the price of freedom on the edge of a society where liberty is being rapidly eroded in the name of security. But she's seen it before, and as she says, sooner or later there will be ovens for the ones that don't fit the new order. If she thought a nosey navy was her biggest problem, she hasn't seen the devastation she's about to drop in on at Kassa, an ag world that's just been wiped off the star map by what looks like alien invaders. Except everyone knows there aren't any aliens. Then she'll have to deal with Kyle Daspar, a cop whose armband says he's a member of the League in good standing...but who shows glints of humanity under the facist facade. They could both use a friend, and they'd make a great team, but in a 'trust no one' society it's hard to look past hard earned paranoia.
M.C. Planck's debut novel is a good piece of space opera, starring two favorite types; She's the plucky freighter captain that lives on the edge of civilization and the law, and he's a cop who's biding his time until he can put society's real criminals away, even though they're the ones at the top. Together they might have a chance, if they can get over some very reasonable paranoia which assures them that the other is an agent for the fascist League, and at best sent to kill them. Thrown together on the surface of Kassa, an agricultural world that's just been bombed back to the stone age by what appears to be an alien invasion, they've got to do what they can to survive, and maybe live to fight another day.
The story goes by too fast, but it's a good first effort. The author wins my vote by showing a captain that's aware of the economics of trading, and a cop who willing to be hated so that he can get into a position where he can do something good. The shortcoming of the story is that what should take another three hundred pages or so is compressed into 289 pages and wraps up pretty suddenly.
It's a good debut, but would have been better if the story had been more fleshed out.