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
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.