A review written by John D. for (The Kassa Gambit ~ by M. C. Planck)
John’s quick take:
A couple of paranoid loners find themselves in a web of conspiracy in this science fiction thriller.
John’s description: It’s far into the future and humanity has spread itself wide across the universe, seeking out new worlds that can be colonized and exploited for natural resources. In all this time and space, there has been no sign that another sentient species exist. It seems that humans are all alone in the universe.
Then Prudence Falling, a space trader in charge of a freighter and a ragtag crew, alights on Kassa, a farming planet that has been brutally attacked by secret assailants and whose population has been mostly slaughtered. She is soon joined by Kyle Daspar, a policeman who has been put in charge of a military patrol vessel. The space traders live on the edge of the law and naturally distrust everyone so she is suspicious of Daspar. Unbeknown to her Daspar is an undercover agent secretly acting against the powerful League for whom he supposedly works. He has been undercover so long that he is no longer sure who he can trust. The two are attracted to each other but their suspicious minds creates a wall of tension between them.
While trying to help the survivors on Kassa, Falling and Daspar make a shocking discovery - an alien spaceship that crashed during the attack. It is clear that they were not supposed to find the alien craft and yet Daspar had been tipped off in advance that something on the planet needed investigation. They smell big trouble and despite their natural caution soon find themselves entangled in a complex conspiracy where nothing is as it seems. With their lives in constant danger and an alien invasion seemingly imminent, the two loners are eventually drawn to each other.
John’s thoughts: I liked the story Planck has concocted. It’s a good mixture of science fiction, political thriller, and adventure romance. The two central characters are nicely developed and you have that feeling that they will end up together despite the difficulties, which adds a bit of spice to the mix. Also the future that Planck creates is interesting and has been well thought out, and is sufficiently different from the many other sci-fi novels that I’ve read recently – which helped to draw me in and keep me reading. It’s definitely a fast-paced book that can be breezed through quickly, and the plot also has enough twists to keep the reader guessing.
I like the two main characters and found myself rooting for them, though the relationship that develops between them isn’t the strongest part of the novel - it somehow felt a bit thin and unconvincing and not particularly lifelike. The other problem for me was the ending of the story; it was rather rushed and an awful lot was crammed into the final few pages. But beyond that this was a fun and interesting read and I’d rate the book 3.5 stars. It’s a fine first novel that will move me to look out for more work by Planck. If you like your science fiction mixed up with a bit of political conspiracy and a slight romantic element, then this is definitely one for you.
We have an interview with this debut author – M. C. Planck. It’s short-n-sweet, and intriguing.
Tor Books; 1/8/2013; 288 pages
About M. C. Planck: After a nearly-transient childhood, Micheal hitchhiked across the country and ran out of money in Arizona. So he stayed there for thirty years, raising dogs, getting a degree in Philosophy, and founding a scientific instrument company. Having read virtually everything by the old Masters of SF&F, he decided he was ready to write. A decade later, with a little help from the Critters online critique group, he was actually ready. He was relieved to find that writing novels is easier than writing software, as a single punctuation error won't cause your audience to explode and die. When he ran out of dogs, he moved to Australia to raise his daughter with her cousins. Now he is a father, author, and immigrant. Fitzgerald was wrong. There are second acts to some American lives, even if they start in other countries. http://mcplanck.com/ and http://mcplanck.blogspot.com/