Killswitch by Joel Shepherd

Published by Pyr
ISBN 978-159102-598-6
November 2007
450 Pages

Web site


In Killswitch, Joel Shepherd continues what some may consider an examination of humanity as Cassandra (Sandy) Kresnov continues to defend her adopted nation/world and kick ass.  Sandy represents a lot of things to different people, a defender and good soldier to some.  To others, a threat an affront to humanity and symbol of everything that is wrong with her adopted world of Callay. 


Shepherd picks up the action in Sandy’s life two years after the events of Breakaway, Sandy is more entrenched in her role as security director and she has been able to reconnect with her friend Rhian. Though quite a distance from Earth, Callay is under siege by a group of military zealots from Earth loyal to the old ways, who are essentially placing Callay under lockdown.  This is the external problem facing the world of Cally.  Paralleling this larger threat is the threat to Sandy on an individual level.  It seems a killswitch has been discovered by someone close to one of her original programmers.  The killswithch essentially, when triggered, will obliterate Sandy’s head.  The once nigh-invincible Sandy now has the threat of death hanging over her pretty head.


In the previous two volumes, Sandy’s enemies were more of a collective rather than a true opposite number.  Shepherd changes that in Killswitch, with the introduction of Jane – the Bizarro to Sandy’s Superman.  This I thought presented a great sense of Sandy’s story continuing to evolve and Shepherd not just repainting-by-numbers the stories he told in the previous volumes. In the previous volumes, Sandy didn’t really have a physical threat, nor did she have a real threat of “death.”  With the Killswitch and Jane, Shepherd again shakes up the status quo.


I don’t think this final (for now) entry in the Cassandra Kresnov chronicles was quite as even as its two predecessors. The scenes without Sandy weren’t quite as enthralling, even if the characters were talking about her. However, some of the action-less oriented scenes, particularly those involving discussions between Sandy and Jane, provided the most thought-provoking and compelling scenes in the book.  In these conversations, Sandy sees her true fears; indeed she sees in Jane what everyone fears she is – a cold, emotionless killing machine. 


I also found the political maneuvering to parallel the action very well, much like the previous two volumes.  Shepherd’s adept hand at balancing these two differently flavored adrenaline inducing types of scenes continues to be a strong point in his writing. Another strength that comes to the fore in Killswitch is that Shepherd doesn’t offer easy answers to his character’s problems.  The relationship between Vanessa Rice and Sandy has been both intense and a walk across eggshells.  Although these two do try to confront the tension between them, it doesn’t fully become resolved.  I found this to be somewhat refreshing. 


With this trilogy complete, Shepherd has proven his ability to deliver politically and action charged science fiction.  Though at times the books are a little uneven, the books stand well together as good action-packed Science Fiction. Kresnov is a strong character and a very human non-human character at that.  Killswitch is a nice ending to the trilogy and a culmination of Sandy’s journey.


© 2008 Rob H. Bedford

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