Series: Galactic Cold War #0
Published by Talos on May 23, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction
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The galaxy is mired in a cold war between two superpowers, the Illyrican Empire and the Commonwealth. Thrust between this struggle are Simon Kovalic, the Commonwealth’s preeminent spy, and Kyle Rankin, a lowly soldier happily scrubbing toilets on Sabea, a remote and isolated planet. However, nothing is as it seems.
Kyle Rankin is a lie. His real name is Eli Brody, and he fled his homeworld of Caledonia years ago. Simon Kovalic knows Caledonia is a lit fuse hurtling towards detonation. The past Brody so desperately tried to abandon can grant him access to people and places that are off-limits even to a professional spy like Kovalic.
Kovalic needs Eli Brody to come home and face his past. With Brody suddenly cast in a play he never auditioned for, he and Kovalic will quickly realize it’s everything they don’t know that will tip the scales of galactic peace. Sounds like a desperate plan, sure, but what gambit isn’t?
The Caledonian Gambit is a throwback to the classic sci-fi adventures of spies and off-world politics but filled to the brim with modern sensibilities.
When I was pulling together my to-read list for Sci-Fi Summer, I ran across The Aleph Extraction, which sounded fun, but I decided to start with the first in the series instead, The Caledonian Gambit. Starting with the first in a series, or the zero-ith in the case- the numbering’s odd, is rarely the wrong choice.
The Caledonian Gambit is a fun spy novel that happens to take place in space. I enjoyed it, but the sci-fi trappings weren’t really necessary to the story. It could have happened on earth now, with just minor transportation and weapon changes. And that’s fine by me. Basically, we have two political entities at war, a special ops team, and a lost pilot that could save the galaxy. We also have the requisite superweapon that could change the tide of the war. And at the end we have two political entities at war, a special ops team and a pilot who will probably have to set out again in the sequel to save the galaxy. And that’s what a spy novel is, right? They rarely stop the war, just do their assignment and hope to make a difference. It has snappy, if expected, dialogue. I guess it didn’t feel terribly original, but I don’t mind formulas sometimes. There’s something safe and comforting about knowing more or less where the story is headed.
Kovalic is the team leader and he’s competent and amusing. Eli, who has been pretty much forced to work with Kovalic for the Commonwealth, is in over his head, but trying to do his best in some tough situations. The interactions between the two work well two, humanizing Kovalic a bit and allowing Eli to begin to work through his issues. The rest of the team are more one-dimensional. The action is pretty standard spy stuff.
I liked The Caledonian Gambit and will probably pick up the sequel. It’s not a must-read though.