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Kassa Gambit, The Hardcover – 29 Jan 2013


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Review

A fast moving and cynical who-done-it, thriller, political novel, and space opera all rolled into one, with a touch of romance as well, where you can't help cheering for the protagonists, even as you wonder exactly how they'll manage to pull it out.L. E. Modesitt, Jr., author of the Recluce Saga Takes the tried-and-true motif of space traders...and embroils them in a web of conspiracy worthy of John LeCarre himself.... I haven't had my spine chilled by paranoia this strong since I first read Frank Herbert's Dune. Planck is to be congratulated on a most impressive debut.Dave Duncan, author of The Seventh Sword. Layers of intrigue unfold in this star-spanning tale of a far-flung humanity. --Paul Melko, author of Singularity's Ring and The Broken Universe

About the Author

M. C. PLANCK lives in Australila.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 22 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Not a blockbuster but an above average, competently done quick read. 13 Jan. 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
More like a 3.5.

I've been reading SF for well over fifty years now and in that time probably read well over a thousand SF novels so, at this point, I am a tough customer.

I found this a fairly interesting and a quick read; not a blockbuster, but an above average work with fairly well crafted characters, and an interesting combination of situations, if a familiar landscape that has been pretty thoroughly worked over by a lot of previous SF writers--mysterious aliens that are attacking human settlements, a wandering refugee turned interstellar trader, loneliness and unrequited love, creeping fascism at home, an underground and its double agent.

Moreover, although in the last chapter the writer employed a "deus ex machina" to get the protagonists out of a hopeless position and allow them to triumph, this technological gimmick was very well integrated into the plot from the very beginning and did not just spring up out of nowhere at the last minute, as did the different deus ex machina that was the reason I gave another work of SF, David Weber's "Out of the Dark," such a bad review here a couple of years ago.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
some first-novel flaws, interesting main character 31 Jan. 2013
By B. Capossere - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Kassa Gambit, by M.C. Planck, is a pretty run-of-the-mill space-action book, a debut book that feels like a debut book in many ways. Those issues mostly made the book fall flat for me, though the main character was intriguing enough I might pick up a second book involving her were one to come along.

The universe of The Kassa Gambit is one in which humans have long ago left Earth behind (it's merely a legend now) and spread throughout the galaxies via "nodes"--gates in space that allow for big jumps in short time periods. Nowhere have they run into anything more than basic lifeforms and now humanity has settled into small system populations, with not a lot of travel between systems, especially anything more than a few node "hops" away. Exceptions are traders, and that leads us to one of our two main characters--Prudence Falling, fiercely independent captain of the freighter ship Ulysses, crewed by an often stoned engineer (Melvin), an often drunk self-styled crazy Mexican in charge of the cargo/trade aspects (Garcia), and a hulking child-man idiot savant navigator (Jorgun).

The novel opens with the Ulysses coming out of a node jump above the relatively primitive farm planet Kassa, which has been bombed into an even more primitive state by unknown attackers who showed up, leveled the place, and disappeared. As Prudence and her crew help the survivors, they run into our second main character--Kyle Daspar, ostensibly a city cop but actually someone with complicated levels of involvement/antagonism with the League, the frustratingly vague organizing/governing group of general humanity (I think, as I said, it's a bit vague).

When the two discover what appears to be a crashed ship of the alien invaders, it sets into motion the entire rest of the story as to the two split up to investigate different tracks and then eventually come back together, though not without a lot of close calls, assassination attempts, cracking open of secrets, etc. in between. What they find out will affect not just the nearby system of Altair (one of the richest human systems) but maybe all of humanity.

The strength of The Kassa Gambit by far is Prudence herself, a character with a secretive but clearly traumatic past, a nicely complex and likable present, and an often-unsure future. I'd say there are problems with the execution of how her character is sometimes presented, but she's a fully fleshed out character who holds up well under the burden of carrying the book.

Kyle fares less well, as I never really felt him as a person as opposed to as a character. For instance, I never felt fully sure on an emotional level of why he was doing something, even if he explained it himself via monologue or dialogue (though because of his context his dialogue is not always trustworthy).

The other characters vary in their impact and three-dimensionality, with the crewmembers feeling more like types than people. Beyond Prudence, my favorite two were a shop owner who sells "alien" artifacts and an academic who specializes in aliens (or the lack of them).

The plot is simply OK; I can't say I was surprised by much that happened and some of it has a familiar feel to it. In some ways its extremely simple and in other ways, mostly in background story, it's much more complex, though the complexity never feel fully concrete. Part of it reminds of old YA action science fiction (Asimov's LUCKY STARR for instance), while some of it feels like it's really reaching for a really big, detailed, rich idea of future space faring humanity culture (I like for example a section in the book where a character muses on how the methods and economies of space flight affect who goes where when), but it remains just an idea with too little sketched in (I never, as mentioned, ever got a grip on the League, on the relationship between local system govts and larger ones, between the military and the non-military, etc.), almost like a half-finished drawing.

The romantic relationship between Kyle and Prudence (I don't think I'm spoiling anything here; it was telegraphed from the start one can see where it's going) feels a bit forced and dreary, almost as if the author is putting them together romantically together because, well, that's what one does with male and female leads.

There is too much internal monologue for me, too much of the characters telling us what is happening with them or why; I would rather have let some of the characterization be revealed via action and dialogue. The monologues also sometimes seem to interrupt in awkward or poorly timed fashion at times, which adds to a general problem of uneven pacing throughout the novel.

I think another reason for the pacing issue is the possibility that The Kassa Gambit is never quite sure exactly what it wants to be. Is it a First Contact story? An Alien Invasion story? A Police Procedural? Military Sci-Fi? A Spy Novel? A Political Conspiracy Thriller? Certainly a novel doesn't have to be "One Thing," and the best of novels are rarely of one type. But this is where I think the debut issue comes into the mix, along with the execution problems above. It takes a deft hand to throw all these possible novel types into one book, and Planck doesn't really pull it off. Instead of forming a uniquely flavored soup, it feels like each time you dip your spoon in you come up with a different ingredient or clump of spice, and the flavors don't always agree with one another or follow well one upon the other.

The ending is surprisingly anti-climactic and relies a little too much on stupidity on the bad guys' part for my liking. It does resolve itself but also leaves room for Kyle and Prudence to find themselves another adventure. Given the usual improvement from a book one to a book two for new novelists, I'd consider giving a second book a chance, but The Kassa Gambit doesn't quite have enough to garner a recommended read.
(received as an ARC/originally appeared on fantasyliterature.com)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing concepts 7 Mar. 2013
By stephen costa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a fast-paced story that kept me interested throughout. It sustains a good dramatic tension, and presents some interesting wrinkles on sci-fi tropes.

I liked the characters, although at times it seemed as though the author was manipulating their actions and thought processes a little too overtly for plot purposes. Perhaps with more experience he can develop his characters more naturally.

I look forward to more from this author, perhaps even with the same characters and background.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An interesting mix of political thriller and space opera 24 Jan. 2013
By Bookworm Dreams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In the future human race has colonized a lot of planets scattered trough the universe. Earth is now just the stuff of legends and distant memory. The humanity enjoys a peaceful although a solitary existence, because it still did not encounter any other intelligent alien life forms. And then - BOOOM! When commercial trading vessel, The Ulysses, delivers goods to planet Kassa, it discovers that there is no radio signal. Whole infrastructure and most of the buildings on planet were destroyed.

Who did this and why? That are the questions that bother Prudence, captain of ship The Ulysses. The same problem is bothering Lieutenant Kyle Daspar, who arrived to Kassa a little bit after her on patrol boat. The story follows them as they go separately on a quest to find out who is behind this mindless, brutal attack.

Prudence and Kyle, both suspicious by nature, suspect everyone and everything even each other. My favorite part about them was their paranoia that everyone is against them. Ok, yes there were right most of the time, but still it was fun. Also I loved the crew of The Ulysses, they were like a big cute dysfunctional family. I am sorry that there was not more room for us to learn even more about them.

Although set in a distant future, on various space-ships and planets, The Kassa Gambit can be best categorized as political thriller novel. And, it was a good mystery that kept me in state of suspense until the big culmination in the end. Who attacked planet Kassa? Why did they destroy everything? Is this just the start of a bigger attack on other planets? I guessed some things but there were enough surprises.

The Kassa Gambit is debut novel by M.C. Planck, so I did not know what to expect. But it surprised me with interesting mystery that kept me guessing what will happen until the end. Also The Kassa Gambit gave me an opportunity to explore a lot of planets in our universe. Yes they were fictional, but fun to visit never-the-less. :)

I recommend this book to fans of: science fiction mysteries or political thrillers set in space, spies, government's plots and intrigues.

Disclaimer: I was given a free eBook by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. This text is also posted on Goodreads and Bookworm Dreams (my blog).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable pump science fiction 4 Feb. 2013
By Zeyd Ali Merenkov MD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Engaging, enjoyable sci-fi with an interesting premise: characters are kind of shallow but it is like a made-for-tv-movie. I good read on a winter's day or on a treadmill: I have read better and read worse but do not regret buying this one.
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