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THE KASSA GAMBIT by M.C. Planck

THE KASSA GAMBIT

By M.C. Planck

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3092-5
Publisher: Tor

Alien invasion yarn that turns out to be something else, from newcomer Planck.

Having destroyed Earth’s ecology, humanity perforce has spread through the galaxy discovering and colonizing hundreds of planets, none with indigenous life more complex than bacteria. The powerful League has established dominance and brought relative peace and prosperity at the expense of what a small but vigorous resistance faction regards as loss of liberty. Young Prudence Falling, captain of a tramp freighter eking out a not always entirely legal living in defiance of League-approved shipping concerns, arrives at the remote farming planet Kassa, only to find the scattered communities bombed to destruction by a mysterious force from space. Prudence does what she can for the survivors while sending an immediate plea for assistance to League HQ on Altair Prime. Sooner than seems possible, a League warship arrives; aboard and in charge is Lt. Kyle Daspar, an officer of the political police who’s secretly a double agent working for the resistance. What follows is superbly handled psychological intrigue: While they must work together, Prudence regards Daspar as exactly what he appears to be, a League operative determined to subvert and destroy her independence, while Daspar suspects Prudence of being a highly trained League agent assigned to expose him. The mistrust runs deep, even when they discover what seems to be a crashed alien spaceship. Prudence thinks Daspar knows more about the alien than he’s telling, while Daspar secretly learns that he was dispatched from Altair Prime before Prudence sounded the alarm. The rest of the plot doesn’t quite live up to the captivating setup, but Planck has a real imagination and the knack of investing the protagonists with real depth. Still, it’s a highly auspicious debut.

One of those rare yarns, a one-off that would have served better as a series opener.