Friday, 3 December 2010

Friday Fiction #1 - CassaStar by Alex J Cavanaugh

Hello my dearies,


Today is the first day of my new attempted Schedule, which makes this....

Like my little button? Not sure I'll manage keeping up with the schedule yet, but here goes! Today (i.e. Friday) shall be a day for reviews of all sorts.

Or shall I make it a day for fiction writing instead? *scratches head*

Hmm. OK I think I'll make it reviews for now.

During the NaNoWriMo Blur that was November, I also had the privilege of reading Alex J Cavanaugh's CassaStar. I've been meaning to do a review of that so here goes... (I'm also taking this opportunity to introduce a new layout for my reviews, of which I think there'll be more in the future).


(click for Amazon page)

CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh

Genre:       Science Fiction

Published (date): October 2010

Published (by): Dancing Lemur Press LLC

I read:   Kindle e-book version

Blurb (as per Amazon): 

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship… Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard. Much to Byron’s chagrin the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential. As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit? 


The MC here is Byron, a headstrong, prideful young pilot with more talent for flying than he has for interpersonal relations. We don't meet him straight away, though. The book starts with a prologue (yes a prologue, and if there ever was a book that shows prologues have a purpose it's this one), an unknown fighter pilot completing dangerous, deadly manouvers. This isn't our MC, but it does lead the reader smoothily into the mind of an overly confident young figher pilot, as well as introducing the technique of flying these ships, the Cosbolts. 

The next person we meet is Bassa, an instructor at Guaard, where the elite pilots and navigators are trained. Through him, we first hear of Byron. The instructor is going through the young pilot's somewhat spotty record. Bassa is no longer the youngest, but still top in his field, one of the best - if not the best - navitator in the fleet. he chose to instruct rather than continue flying for very personal reasons, reasons he is reminded of again and again by Byron's attitude and actions. 

Byron first makes a personal appearance when he visits his sister before going to Guaard. The reader learns of his disturbed relationship with his sister, providing insights into the young pilot's psyche. Only then does he ship off to Guaard, where even his first role-call makes it clear that this will be no easy student to teach.

On the way there, the reader is introduced to Trindel, Byron's somewhat hyperactive navigator. The young pilot's tolerance of Trindel's idiosynchracies adds some very interesting fascets to Byron's character. 


Cavanaugh knows how to weave a plot that holds the reader's attention, that much is certain. Starting with the well-placed prologue that puts the reader in just the right frame of mind for the story, every scene is perfectly placed to hold tension and move the story onwards. The characters are introduced in such a way as to involve the reader, make them sympathise with both Bassa and Byron, letting them root for the 'heroes' of the story. 

The development of the plot is well-timed, the first aim being Byron's graduation at Guaard, then moving on to him getting a good placement, then what was mere training becomes deadly serious and Bassa and Byron have to work together to survive. 

I read the book in one sitting, I just couldn't put it down. I kept thinking, oh, I'll just read until this problem is this wait what do they do now...ahhhhh! (the good sort of aaaah!)


This is a sci-fi novel, so the setting is, as one might expect (well, as I expected) a stellar one, in an age of space travel and space battles. There is (thank you Alex) no mention of a warp drive but rather a navigational computer that reminded me of the NavCom they use in the Wing Commander book(s) (you might know the movie with Freddie Prince Jr), a technology that lets the Cosbolt ships 'jump' in space (not in time), giving them an unparalleled advantage in any dogfight. 

The whole world is well set up, no long sermons some authors use to inform the reader but a gradual introduction into the world of CassaStar, so sublte at times you (or maybe that's just me) don't even realize there was an explanation - the reader intuitively knows what to think. Now, I have to add here that I have read a fair amount of sci-fi novels and it might be easier for me to 'fall into the story'. I don't know how this would appear to a sci-fi novice. 

Review Summary:

CassaStar is a smoothly written, well thought out story with engaging characters the reader can sympathise with - and be exasperated with at times - pulling him into the book. The up and down of tension is perfectly choreographed to hold interest and the personal development of the main characters - and they definately both have their issues - is significant. For them, life-changing, for the reader, satisfying. 

Alltogether an excellent debut novel in classic sci-fi style. Well done, Alex! 

You can find Alex on his blog HERE.


9 out of 10 cupcakes

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