Monday, March 18, 2024

Cascade Failure by L. M. Sagas: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Cascade Failure by L.M. Sagas

Cascade Failure starts Ambit’s Run sci-fi series. It’s set in a far-future, space-faring galaxy that still has a connection to perfectly liveable Earth. Everything worth anything is owned by Trust, which aims at making profit no matter the human cost. They’re only kept in reign by the Union who protects the labourers. Between them, as a sort of a police and military, is the Guild.

Jal is a deserted Guild ranger. He’s been modified genetically for mining work, and is stronger and faster than others, with eyes that can see in the dark. He’s fleeing from something towards an unknown goal, and for that, he needs a ride. He thinks he’s landed on a ship that has no connection to the Guild, but turns out he’s wrong. And it’s not a coincidence he’s on the ship.

Ambit is a small Guild vessel that takes on riskier jobs at the edges of the galaxy, and looks the part. Her captain is Eoan, a sentient AI with holographic projections and a yearn to learn everything, especially about humans. XO is Saint, a gruff former Earth soldier turned Guild ranger. He’s Jal’s former commanding officer and there’s huge baggage between the men, though their relationship is never made very clear. Then there’s Nash, who is both the mechanic and the doctor and equally good at both. She likes feng shui and crocheting in her spare time.

The crew’s plan to take Jal to be court marshalled takes a turn when they answer a distress call. They find Anke, a chirpy programmer who’s learned of a Trust code that destroys terraformed planets in mere moments. She has a counter code. She just needs to test it. The crew decides to help her. Things don’t go as planned.

This is a very character-driven sci-fi. Each character is given their point of view chapters, and much time is spent in interpersonal relationships. No romances, though there are some hints that could’ve been made stronger and clearer for bigger emotional punches later.

The focus is on Jal and Saint with their past. We learn why Jal deserted, but his life since is sort of glossed over. He emerges as my favourite, though there’s a huge gap in how his chapters present him and how others see him. Anke too, has a clear role. Nash and Eoan didn’t necessarily need their own chapters, they slow things down, but Eoan goes through a transforming event, which was good to see from their point of view.

The plot is fairly straightforward, sort of secondary, and a bit slow, but good. Nothing is black and white, and the bad guys aren’t necessarily bad, or are bad in an understandable way. There are betrayals and sacrifices, and the solutions aren’t easy. The biggest reward for the reader doesn’t come from the plot, but from the characters themselves.

This might have been a four-star book, but it’s so well-written and balanced, especially for a debut, that it gets full five stars. The ending hints at the crew’s next mission. I’m definitely going to read that too.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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