The Caledonian Gambit by Dan Moren The Caledonian Gambit by Dan Moren
Series: Galactic Cold War #0
Published by Talos on May 23, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 314
Format: eBook
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three-half-stars

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.

About Dan Moren

Dan Moren is the author of the Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi espionage capers. A former senior editor at Macworld, Dan’s work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Fast Company, Popular Science, Yahoo Tech, Tom’s Guide, Six Colors, The Magazine, and TidBITS, among other places.

Additionally, Dan is a prolific podcaster: he serves as the co-host of tech shows Clockwise and The Rebound, writes and hosts nerdy quiz show Inconceivable!, and is a frequent panelist on the Parsec-award-winning podcast The Incomparable.

Dan lives with his wife in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys games of the video and tabletop variety.

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