CassaStaR when I was a young lad. In college my predilections changed to a more of this world and of our era sort of story, although I've continued to enjoy good effects-driven space movies. I thought that I'd outgrown scifi, but Alex J. Cavanaugh has shown me that the genre is healthy and good reading for adults.
Cavanaugh has taken a timeworn traditional format and dusted it off with a fresh new point of view. CassaStaR follows cocky star rookie Byron through his training to fulfill his dream of becoming a Cosbolt pilot. His superior, Bassa, recognizes both Byron's obvious and hidden talents, and becomes determined to turn him into the best he can be. Bassa has a real challenge ahead to tame Byron's ego and fear of intimacy.
With the help of his mentor, Byron experiences growth and learns worthy values such as friendship, trust, forgiveness, and sacrifice.
Aside from what I felt to be a tacked on and unnecessary prologue, the early chapters seem tedious and slow. They act as the typical character and story introductions. After a while I was becoming impatient for something to actually happen in the story. Then I realized that Cavanaugh has used this device to put us in the same mindset of the characters in the story. I, the reader, was right there in the midst of the training. I was feeling the same impatience to see action as the trainees were. This was a clever way of injecting the reader into the mind of Byron.
Once the training is over, the main story begins and the reader is ready to fly. Here is where the real conflicts--inside Byron and on the battlefield--begin. The action is well paced and exciting. Often the battle scenes put me in mind of old World War Two aerial battle stories with dogfights. At other times I felt like I was inside of a space war video game, all flashing lights and effects.
This action is well separated with the breathers that depict the men in the dining halls and getting to know one another. My favorite scene was the stopover at a spaceport where they encounter the wilder elements of their intergalactic society--the trade, the recreation, and exposure to other life forms. I hope to see more of this in future books of the series.
Alex J. Cavanaugh took great care in writing this book. It reads well. I tried to stay on the alert for errors or bad writing, but there was nothing here to trip me up. The writing is concise and precise. There is a certain air of sterility to the style, but I was able to dismiss this readily due to the nature of the characters and their environment. The style held my attention and compelled me to keep reading.
Also, there is virtually nothing to offend anyone except the person who becomes offended in the most bizarre ways and I'm not sure who that person would be. The language is polite, grammatically correct, and avoids obscenity. This last point is a big one with me. I am one who believes that good writing can convey emotions or whatever without the distraction of obscenity. This book would be fine for any young person. It could also be quite acceptable as classroom reading since it touches upon so many topics that can stimulate discussion. If you're considering this book as a gift for a young reader, you will be doing well to get it.
Now for some silly stuff. After all this is me, Arlee Bird, and I can get pretty much out there sometimes. Maybe it's good or maybe it's not--you be the judge--but one of the things that starts happening when I read science fiction is that my willing suspension of disbelief gets taxed and I start wondering about this thing or that. Like what's the deal with water on the mother ship?
This Byron guy takes more long showers than anyone I've ever seen. And if the other guys are even taking half the showers, that's a lot of water! I realize this space ship is huge, but they must have a water reservoir that's the size of a lake. And what about the water recycling facilities, and not only for water but for air? I understand they have this biosphere place, but I was just trying fathom it all as I was reading.
Then there's the meat. The guys on this ship are really a bunch of carnivores. Do they raise meat producing animals on the space ship? A lot of guys are being fed on this ship: How do they maintain the food supply? I'm more used to thinking about Tang and food squeezed from tubes.
Sorry, this is just me and science fiction. I'm a behind the scenes kind of guy. I want to know how things work. I like to hear about logistics and behind the scenes stuff. All the battles are exciting and all, but what about the meat? And do they have dessert? Sorry Alex, but that's the way I think sometimes.
I look forward to the future installments of Alex J. Cavanaugh's saga of the Cassans. If the upcoming books are as well written as CassaStaR, then we are in for a treat. This is fun reading that puts across a positive message. CassaStaR is a book that science fiction fans will really appreciate, but all fiction fans can enjoy.