fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsKillswitch Joel ShepherdKillswitch by Joel Shepherd

Killswitch, the final book in Joel Shepherd’s CASSANDRA KRESNOV trilogy, picks up the story 2 years after the end of Breakaway. The Federation is still going through a period of upheaval, with Callayan President Neiland trying to make Tanusha the capital of the formerly Earth-based organization, and numerous powerful factions (including Federation Fleet warships) converging on the planet to try and affect the outcome of this political power play.

Meanwhile, Callay is still in the process of setting up the administrative and military infrastructure necessary for its new function, and of course the former League hunter-killer android Cassandra Kresnov, and her friend Vanessa Rice, are heavily involved, both somehow installed at the top of the new Callayan Defence Force. (And if this seems a stretch in terms of probability, Joel Shepherd seems to agree, having Sandy wonder out loud “How the hell did us two idiots end up running an army?” early in the novel.)

To make matters even more complicated, Sandy’s lover Ari Ruben discovers that her creators incorporated a “killswitch” in her brainstem, and that someone may be trying to activate it. In the middle of maybe the most important period in the history of Callay, Sandy is forced to go underground and investigate the plot to kill her.

Killswitch is again filled with interesting characters — most importantly of course Cassandra Kresnov, the android action hero with a heart, and her friend and colleague Vanessa Rice. Also reappearing in a more prominent role are Ari Ruben (who is interesting enough to carry a novel by himself), and Rhian Chu, an artificial person who used to be a member of Sandy’s former Dark Star squad and who effectively illustrates the personality development curve the high-des androids can go through. The descriptions of Sandy’s (and Rhian’s) thought processes, coming to terms with what they have done in the line of duty, are at times surprisingly powerful.

Killswitch is another fine installment in the CASSANDRA KRESNOV series, this time even more action-packed and exciting than the previous two books — as hard as that may be to believe! There’s not a dull moment in this novel, and especially the action scenes involving both Sandy and Rhian are tremendously gripping and simply impossible to put down.

If the novel has one weakness, it’s that Joel Shepherd is running two parallel story lines, a major one involving Sandy and Vanessa’s activities planetside, and a smaller (but equally important) one focusing on rivaling Fleet factions in orbit. The plots are connected because both influence the eventual outcome of the Callayan bid to become the Federation capital, but they are generally kept separate for most of the novel until they are resolved in quick succession at the end of the novel. This has the odd consequence of giving the novel two endings, with the second (and again, equally important) one feeling somewhat like an afterthought, after reading the explosive finale of the planetside plot.

With some reconfiguring, this novel could probably have been turned into two books, although maybe that’s just a reflection of my genuine disappointment that Killswitch is the last novel in the CASSANDRA KRESNOV series. Despite the rushed ending, this is a strong, intelligent and breathless military-flavored SF novel. If Joel Shepherd were to write another 10 novels in this series, I’d happily read them all.

Cassandra Kresnov — (2006-2015) Publisher: The League’s GIs are purpose built soldiers, inflexible fighting androids — Cassandra (Sandy) is a special, experimental model. She has a personality and mental flexibility; an ability to learn. She is not controllable as are the older GIs. But Sandy is captured by the Federation who want to use her for research.

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  • Stefan Raets

    STEFAN RAETS (on FanLit's staff August 2009 — February 2012) reads and reviews science fiction and fantasy whenever he isn’t distracted by less important things like eating and sleeping.

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