The Cassini Code continues Dom Testa's space-operatic opus, launched with The Comet's Curse, and expanded in Web of Titan. It's arguable (and I believe) Cassini Code surpasses both books prior, though when it comes to reading them out of order, I'm with the supercomputer, folks - it's going to be worth every moment to read them in order. It's via that route the true enormity of this mission facing the Galahad crew becomes clear. I think it's particularly important to this book, however, because one really should witness the well-oiled machine that left earth to appreciate the tangle of doubt and sedition that strikes Galahad in this installation.
Dom Testa always writes the magnitude and beauty of space in poetic passages. Some of his lines about the Kuiper Belt, the setting for Cassini Code, are inspired, and some, sublime. His skill as a writer make wrapping one's mind around the scale of that cosmic rock-pile, let alone why it poses so insurmountable a threat to the ship, effortless. But readers will be used to this from Testa. Much more surprising, and a real breakthrough for the book, is the skill with which he handles the bubbling insurrection boiling through cracks in the crew. It's ironic, while watching an election, to read a primer on the tricks of the political trade as illuminated by a new face: aptly-named and oleaginous `rebel leader' Merit Simms. Though, at points, particularly regarding nurse Alexa's sad circumstances in this book, Simms seems sincere, those moments will stand out for you. They're rare for the crafty, clever leader of the `Return To Earth' movement.
Triana really sparkles in this book, demonstrating again why Zimmerman - the Galahad project being his brainchild - chose her to lead the mission. At this point, I begin to despair about the idea of rotating the leadership. Stiff and afraid of attachments as the death of her father and indifference of her mother left her, as a reader, you'll find it easy to bond to smart, capable Triana. No other kid on the Galahad, not even incredible Hannah (whose brilliance storms this book), has the mixture of human, leadership, and technical skills Tree demonstrates.
Gap and Bon are also stand-outs, especially as the book races to the final showdown: Tree vs. Merit in a winner-take-all debate that will set the course of the Galahad. Bon shines. His cold-blooded strength and purpose are as gritty, functional, and restorative in this book as the space-aged gardens he keeps (Plus, in a moment that's a pure gift from Testa, the Swede smacks Simms right in the mouth - I read it twice!) But it's his lingering secrets regarding the alien Cassini that will drop your jaw. Gap acquits himself so well in the debate scene it's uplifting and must be read and savored to be believed.
Lita and Channy are ever present, as are visits from oddly comforting ship's cat, Iris, without whom, I feel pretty confident, Bon might never have a visitor beyond his work crew and a rare work-related call from Tree. Both Channy and Lita remain critical parts of the story and crucial to binding the Council together. It's Lita's assistant, Alexa, who inadvertently steals the thunder at the close of the book. Her emergence from a coma that nearly devastates Lita, comes with some... foreboding talents.
Cassini's plot is nicely layered and its ending promises deeper complexities in the next book. Testa has really worked on characterization. It's easy to detect why there's a connection between Lita and Tree; the kids reactions to the threat of mutiny, and their responses to Merit's message are revealing and sometimes shocking. The stiffness of some of these kids has worn away. Except Triana. That's because Triana is stiff. She's a bit like a fly trapped in amber, interpersonally. It was odd to realize, given his unbending ethic, but Bon seems more flexible and organic about their budding relationship, than otherwise in-charge Tree. I would argue her past as left her petrified, and unable to take that final risky step. Then again, the girl has a lot on her plate.
A final note about ROC (the supercomputer, the myth, the microprocessors) - his involvement has become nothing short of essential to the flow and mechanisms of the plot; he has some moments of almost human insight in the course of the book, and is almost tender during the Alexa crisis; his invitations to readers to join him, and rejoin him again, are irresistibly genial.
If it's this much fun... why resist?!
The Dark Zone: A Galahad Book [Kindle Edition]
Text-to-Speech: Enabled <-- Yay!