Tuesday, 4 March 2008
‘Crossover’ – Joel Shepherd (Pyr Books)
Joel Shepherd’s 2006 debut garnered a lot of positive reviews (Chris the Book Swede loved it and Pat managed to get a quote from his review on the back of ‘Breakaway’, the sequel). From what I’d heard of the novel I just knew that I’d be reading it sooner or later, it turned out to be a lot later with other stuff that has been going on! I finally got around to reading it a few days ago and I’m officially adding my voice to the list of people who enjoyed this book. There are a couple of exceptions but, on the whole, I think the hype has been totally justified.
Cassandra Kresnov is a synthetic person and the pinnacle of League technology in its fight against the Federation. She has been created to lead ‘lesser’ synthetics in battle but her enhanced intelligence, and intuition, lead her to question her orders and ultimately desert her creators. The only place left for her to go is the Federation planet of Callay where her very existence is anathema to Federation doctrine. However, Callayan politics aren’t as clear cut as they seem and there will be plenty of opportunities for Cassandra to make herself useful in her new home…
‘Crossover’ is a pretty hefty 457 pages long but (for the most part) it didn’t feel like it as the story was fast paced enough to keep the pages turning nicely. The plot is a good blend of action, politics and musings on being an artificial human trying to make its way in a human world. The text is split fairly evenly between these three topics and the ‘action’ and ‘musing’ sequences work really well. We get a real taste for what Cassandra is capable of in several fight scenes that are explosive to say the least! No expense is spared with blowing the scenery up but the fights never once become cartoonish. All I’m going to say is that if I’m ever in that kind of fight then I want Cassandra on my side, someone who is capable of jumping off a tall building and breaking the road (instead of her legs) is well worth knowing! Cassandra’s internal conflict (reconciling who she is with what she wants to be) also makes for some poignant and emotional reading. Her developing relationship with SWAT officer Vanessa Rice got me all teary eyed and it’s this kind of switching back and forth between themes (action and introspection) that kept things fresh and engaging for me.
Callayan politics forms the foundation of ‘Crossover’ with an intricate plot involving planetary secession and manipulation, by shadowy agencies, amongst other things. On the whole this works well with a storyline that kept me hooked with its many twists and turns. At times however, the emphasis on politics turned into ‘info-dumps’ that were made more annoying by the fact that some questions were left unanswered. Unless I missed it, I never found out what ‘GI’ actually stood for. ‘Genetic Infantry’, ‘Great Invention’? Who knows… I was also bemused by the decision to have the final confrontation shown through the eyes of the ‘villain’. The fact that he never hears Cassandra say anything just felt like an opportunity was missed for a showdown with some real impact.
Despite these (small) flaws, I loved ‘Crossover’ and haven’t had as much fun with a sci-fi book in a long time. I’m hoping for more of the same from ‘Breakaway’ and it won’t be too long before I find out.
Nine out of Ten