Cassa Fire, Space Opera, Dancing Lemur Press, 2012. Tpb/ebook $15.95/$4.99
An enjoyable read with well drawn leads that takes a while to suck you in but ultimately rises above its faults to provide a compelling and enjoyable read. I have not read book 1 in this series. So let me say some of my quibbles with it may well not be shared by those who have.
The action was well written and Cavanaugh uses some invented SFnal ideas here, including mental powers for two races, one limited to men, the other expanded by the entry of women. The developing relationship between the humans and Tgren as a result of this development makes for interesting drama and asks interesting questions. It also provides good fodder for further storylines.
His worldbuilding is very solid. The starships are well thought out and created well. You can definitely feel an 80s SF influence, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in particular, although I suppose Star Wars and Star Trek could be found in it as well.
The prose itself is solid. Cavanaugh is quite good at weaving description and dialogue and keeping things moving well. He handles multiple POV characters well and does a good job transitioning between scenes and chapters.
Action scenes are well written and handled and have appropriate pacing and tension, avoiding the silly dialogue which sometimes ensues.
Now for the quibbles:
First, the story didn’t hook me until Chapter 4. In part, I felt there wasn’t much going on at the beginning. The real action didn’t take place until later on. There were a number of passages with routine day to day character routines which I could have done without that slowed down the pace as well. The worldbuilding is solid but I wish the writer had found a way to get us into it with a bit more excitement. The result is a dragging pace until chapter 4 when it picks up more and more as it moves toward the middle and end.
Second, other than Byron and his love interest, I didn’t find the other characters very well drawn. They didn’t seem to have arcs of their own. Perhaps they were from book 1 and developed more fully there, but I think he could have added a bit more development in them to make it more interesting. The uncle of the love interest, however, does change a bit in his attitude, which was a nicely handled touch. I just would have liked to have seen more with other supporting characters for a richer, fuller canvass.
Third, because the story doesn’t have as much action as I expected from the cover (my fault not his but the cover did set expectations somewhat), I’d compare this more to a storyline from Star Trek:TNG or a thoughtful TOS episode than I would to something more action packed like Star Wars or Buck Rogers or even BSG in storyline/plot. I would have liked a bit more action. This last note, admittedly, is personal preference and not the writer’s fault. There’s just rich potential in the ships, characters and world for some really good action. Perhaps book 1 provides more of that. I do intend to read it.
Ultimately, I am giving this four stars because I think despite any flaws it’s well worth your time. Don’t let the pacing keep you from digging in. The SF ideas, cultures, and world are well developed and interesting. I would look forward to more stories. I do hope next round he’ll give us more action. And I hope he’ll develop some of the other characters as well. Regardless, if you like old fashioned space opera, this is a family friendly fun read. Recommended.
For my #SFFWRTCHT interview with this author at Ray Gun Revival: http://www.raygunrevival.com/sffwrtcht-interview-author-alex-j-cavanaugh/
To follow the author’s blog tour, you can find it at: http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.