Breakaway by Joel Shepherd


Published by Pyr
ISBN 1-59102-540-5
March 2007
425 Pages

Web site


Joel Shepherd’s electric heroine, Cassandra “Sandy” Kresnov, continues her thrill-ride of a life in the author’s second novel, Breakaway. Shepherd picks up her story shortly after the events of Crossover, and the story doesn’t miss a beat. If anything the beat gets turned up a few notches.


Just because Cassandra is now part of the citizenry of Callay, it doesn’t mean her life has settled down.  Who she is and what she is presents a moral crux for many of the people on the world, not the least of which are both the League and the Federation.  Those are just the two major factions at odds in the novel, but perhaps the two organizations with the greatest contention are the two security agencies of Callay the CSA (her employer) and the SIB.  The political powers that be (and those that would be) want to use her as a touchstone and a political tool.


Clearly, Sandy has a lot on her plate, both on the political level and in her role as the planet’s preeminent security agent. This keeps her plenty busy, from saving lives to thwarting terrorist attacks, a lot of bullets fly.  The philosophical underpinnings of Breakaway, while somewhat different than Crossover, are nonetheless still taut.  In the previous novel, much was made of whether or not Sandy was truly a human.  While that issue was not quite resolved, its answer is not as impossible to determine.  Here in Breakaway, Sandy’s loyalties are brought into question as Mustafa, another GI (artificially created soldier) model from the League confronts her about whether or not she made the right decision in defecting from the League to become a citizen of the Federation.  During these exchanges with Mustafa, Kresnov’s defense of her defection from the League seems almost as if she may still be trying to convince herself.  These exchanges provide another conflict for Kresnov and proved to be some of the more interesting character exchanges in the novel.


Another aspect of Breakaway I enjoyed was the depth and back-history Shepherd added to his future world.  Like many Science Fiction novels, and the writers who write them, Shepherd postulates a future that is very Indian/Asian-centric.  While Callay is a mixed-pot of ethnicity, so to speak, the dominant names and cultures are of an Indian background.  In some ways, one could see Shepherd’s world as an extrapolation of the world Ian McDonald postulates in his fascinating novel River of Gods.


While Crossover was an extremely well balanced novel, I couldn’t help finding a couple of spots lagging in Breakaway.   The pacing felt much more tight in Shepherd’s previous novel.  There seemed to be a bit more “discussion” in Breakaway, while Crossover featured a bit more action.  These discussions moved the plot along fairly well, but as I said, the story felt slighly unbalanced.


The ending of the novel clearly does not close out Sandy’s story, but there was a very nice tie-in to Crossover.  Pyr will be publishing the final (at this time) installment of Kresnov’s story in Killswitch in a few months.


© 2007 Rob H. Bedford

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