Thursday, February 21, 2013

Unexpected Applause: CassaFire

Instead of doing a cover reveal, today, for Alex Cavanaugh's new book, CassaStorm (due out this fall), I thought I'd review the second book in his trilogy seeing as how I just finished reading it. As it turns out that's going to be a bit harder than I thought it would be. Harder because I just didn't enjoy CassaFire

the way I did CassaStar (follow the link to the review).

The main reason is the time jump. I've decided that I just don't tend to like stories with huge leaps ahead in time. Like in The Dark Knight Rises. Of course, I realize that I was nearly alone in my lesser opinion of that movie, so maybe this is not a thing that bothers other people. However, it does bother me, and I had a difficult time reconciling myself to the fact that 'Fire was supposed to be nearly 20 years after 'Star. The character didn't seem any different. It was like he just stepped ahead 20 years into his future and was still wrestling with the same issues. At no point did I feel like I was reading about the cares and concerns of a 40-year-old man. He still felt like the same 20-year-old from the first book. If the story had been set, say, two years later, I don't think I would have had many of the issues that I did.

To make that issue worse, Byron seems to have not advanced in his career at all in the 20 year interim. We know that he planned to quit being a fighter pilot at the end of the first book, but, here, 20 years later, he's just flying a shuttle, and I had a hard time buying into that even if it was by choice. Again, I could see that after two years, but 20 years later was really stretching my suspension of disbelief.

There are some other issues with details about the world setting that niggled at me a lot, too, but I can't really go into most of those without the risk of giving things away, but I will say this one thing: Where are the rest of the Tgren people? They entire race seems to be totally existent within the one city of Ktren. A whole planet, but all of them live in this one city? Maybe, that's not how it is, but that is how it's presented, and it just... bothered me. In some respects, it reminded me of episodes of Star Trek or Stargate because of that, and that works in a 40 minute TV episode, but I kept waiting for some mention of the rest of the people and, other than the Bshen (who seem to be another race entirely), it never came.

In the end, I think I was looking for another 20,000 words or so to fill out the story some. I do realize that the focus of the story is Byron and his relationships, especially with the new woman in his life, and that was well done, but it felt too much as if it was being acted out upon a cardboard stage rather than a real 3-D environment.

That said, I may feel differently about this book once the next one comes out as it seems it is going to build on what was done in CassaFire. If, in retrospect, 'Fire serves as a good building block for what happens in 'Storm, I could end up with more positive feelings about it despite the sparseness of the background.

Oh, and I wouldn't be me if I didn't mention the editing. The editing in 'Fire wasn't quite as good as the editing in 'Star, and there were some repetitive errors that bugged me, which distracted me from the story. Some missing words here and there, repeated lines of text a couple of times, and misspellings. Mostly things that other people won't notice, since other people seem to have not noticed them, but there were enough this time around that it's worth noting. That said, in comparison to a lot of other things I've read, even novels published through big, traditional publishers (>cough< Snow Crash), it was pretty clean. [I mean, in Snow Crash, it was like he sneezed commas, and they just left them on the page wherever they landed.]

So, in the final analysis, I really like CassaStar. It's a good read, kind of a buddy space opera kind of book. It deals with the bonds of friendship and how important they can be. CassaFire is okay. If you really like 'Star, it's worth giving it a look, at least. It's a romance, and the romance is pretty well handled. There are themes of friendship, also, but, really, it's about the girl. Looking forward, CassaStorm has an intriguing plot and, just from the summary, a lot of world details that haven't been revealed before. I'm intrigued, so I will certainly go on to the next one. It's possible that 'Storm could make 'Fire completely worthwhile. I guess I'll find out this fall.


  1. Sorry you didn't enjoy it. Other reviewers have thought the storyline better, writing better, more world building, and they liked the growth and maturation of Byron.
    Never planned a third book - sorry, this one stands alone.
    Thanks for the review and hopefully there was something about it you liked.

  2. Oh man, that's too bad. I liked what Alex did with the second book. He went in an entirely different direction than the first, and I think he pulled it off. And not to argue the psychology of the characters, but I took it that after the death of his mentor in the first book (er, spoiler alert) that he went back into a shell and all that growth from the first book was undone as a result. Since there was no one to challenge him he was on cruise control. I don't know, it just made sense to me.

    And comma sneezes? That is awesome. I think I'll try that on a page of my next story and see if anyone notices. I'll have no commas at all and then I'll print the page, sneeze on it, and... you know, that actually sounds gross, nevermind.

  3. Alex: I didn't dislike it; I just didn't think it was as strong as 'Star. Like I said, I thought the romance was really well done.
    And I get that you wrote this one to stand alone; however, it's clear that the next one is building on this one, so it's not alone anymore.

    Rusty: I get that on an emotional level. He closed himself back off and stuff. But...

    I think comma sneezes may be a new thing. Be careful with your books!

  4. As I read your review I was wondering how Alex would take it. That was a very reasoned and measured response. I was hoping for a fight!

    I didn't take your review as a negative at all, though, and I've heard lots of good stuff about Alex's books, which I keep meaning to get to and keep not getting to. Certainly, asking for more of a story isn't necessarily a pan, the way I've seen you pan books before.

    This didn't dissuade me from the book; it just makes me want to read the first one more and then see what I think.

    As for the editing: that seems to be a problem for ebooks in general. I've been re-reading the old Piers Anthony Xanth books, and there are typos about every third page. From a "REAL" publisher! Good thing I'm taking them out of the library.

  5. Briane: Well, I have done the fighting thing, although those are pretty one sided as I tend to just let the other person do his/her thing without responding.

    I don't remember mistakes in the Xanth novels, but, then, I was about 14 when I was reading those. I think self-pubbed stuff gets a bad rep on the editing front considering the state of editing from "real" publishers. It's disheartening, actually.

  6. I've actually seen The Dark Knight Rises disparaged quite a bit online as the weakest of the trilogy. Though I don't think I've seen the time jump specifically mentioned as a weak point. I liked it the best of the three, which just goes to show you never can tell.

  7. Sarah: I haven't actually seen anything negative about it, but, then, I haven't looked, either.

  8. I didn't find anything wrong with Cassa Star or Fire, but I don't read books with a critical eye I suppose, I just read them to enjoy, or not as the case may be. I enjoyed both of these books and certainly didn't worry about the depth of background or the lack of Tgren.

    As for typos in ebooks, they drive me crackers and I get so annoyed that I cannot correct them. One author friend of mine allowed me to get a copy of her book and correct it, then it was republished. I hope it is now typo free.

  9. Maybe that's what happens when I have too many commas, I must have sneezed. However, my crit partner calls herself the 'comma Nazi' since she exorcises all the extras.

    I liked Alex's first two books (I reviewed them too). With a space opera, I don't think there is usually the depth of character that you are referring to. Isn't action (and no hard science) the main focus?

    You expressed your points well. Perhaps a prologue in the second book would have helped, to explain what occurred in between?

  10. Jo: Theoretically, I'm reading for enjoyment, but the "critical eye" is always there.

    D.G.: If the driving factor is action, yes, but the driving factor of the Cassa books is the characters.