CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
October 19, 2010 Science fiction/adventure/space opera
ISBN 9780981621067 Dancing Lemur Press LLC
When I received my ARC of Alex's novel, CassaStar, my first impression was of how beautiful the book is. I love the cover art. Well yes, you see it in the picture above but it's even better in person, quality artwork on a 6x9 trade paperback that feels good in your hand. Here's the back cover blurb:
They say "no man is an island," but young fighter-pilot-in-training Byron is putting that theory to the test. He arrives on the Guaard moon base for his final phase of Cosbolt pilot training with a cocky attitude and an underlying need to prove himself and immediately falls under the watchful eye of the decorated senior instructor, Bassa.
At first, Bassa sees in Byron an uncanny likeness to his own deceased younger brother, another brash, rebellious pilot, and he's determined not to let this skilled young pilot meet the same fate. After discovering a rare hidden talent (not to be spoiled here!) giving Byron's already ace piloting skills an edge, Bassa takes Byron's training under his wing.
But the last thing Byron wants is Bassa's attention. Though he yearns for recognition, he also clings to his solitude, finding it hard enough to link telepathically with his friend and navigator, Trindel. When Trindel decides he no longer wishes to be a navigator, Byron feels betrayed. He has to choose now to open himself up to a new navigator or lose what he'd worked for all this time. Ultimately, he completes the training driven by his desire for accomplishment.
When he arrives at his prestigious first new command, his jets are cooled by the discovery that Bassa has secured orders as his new navigator. He resents the man's presence, seeing it as intrusive and controlling. Their relationship is rough, but to survive the rigors of combat and work well as the skilled team they are, they have no other choice than to rely on each other. With war against a deadly foe brewing, Bassa must trust Byron's judgment and Byron must open his mind to true communication and trust in their friendship.
Byron expects the worst from people but learns that others can and will surprise you. Assuming Bassa's interest in him is fed by guilt over his younger brother's death, Byron is stunned to discover the man's genuine affection for him. Bassa might have initially seen Byron as he saw his brother, but I believe he later saw a reflection of himself, another soul like him having trouble making real connections with others.
This friendship is at the heart of CassaStar. The story drives home that to experience true acceptance and friendship, you have to open up and share yourself, to even be vulnerable, but you'll become a stronger person for it. This character-driven story will widely appeal to even those who don't read sci-fi. The descriptions give the readers a picture to color in with their own imaginations, not overly-detailed like many sci-fi novels and the action scenes are edge-of-your-seat. I'd recommend CassaStar not only to adults but also to fans of YA.
It took a few pages to get to know Byron, but the more I learned about him, the harder it was for me to put the book down. Byron's a great guy who came from a hard life and grew his defenses well, but still managed to stay out of trouble and always perform at his very best. I really identify with his fear of opening up. Who hasn't been there before? Now when's the sequel coming, Alex?