The Kassa Gambit – M.C. Planck

About the Book

Centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for rfesources has driven us to colonize hundreds of planets, all of them devoid of other sentient life. Humanity is apparently alone in the universe.

Then comes the sudden, brutal decimation of Kassa, a small farming planet, by a mysterious attacker. The few survivors send out a desperate plea for aid, which is answered by two unlikely rescuers. Prudence Falling is the young captain of a tramp freighter. She and her ragtag crew have been on the run and living job to job for years, eking out a living by making cargo runs that aren’t always entirely legal. Lt. Kyle Daspar is a police officer from the wealthy planet of Altair Prime, working undercover as a double agent against the League. He’s been undercover so long he can’t be trusted by anyone—even himself.

While flying rescue missions to extract survivors from the surface of devastated Kassa, they discover what could be the most important artifact in the history of man: an alien spaceship, crashed and abandoned during the attack.

But something tells them there is more to the story. Together, they discover the cruel truth about the destruction of Kassa, and that an imminent alien invasion is the least of humanity’s concerns.

288 pages (hardcover)
Published on: January 8, 2013
Published by Tor
Author’s webpage

This book was provided for me to review by the publisher.

You can purchase a copy of this book here: The Kassa Gambit, The Kassa Gambit – Kindle


Science Fiction is a genre that sets itself unique challenges based on the quality of work that floods its sphere. SciFi is known for pushing the limits and challenging whatever else could possibly be dreamed of. The truly successful SciFi author will put something never seen before into his or her books. That’s a mark of success that readers like myself look for when they read books in the genre. When that sort of inventiveness is missing, it’s felt acutely. 

Such is the case with The Kassa Gambit. While there is a lot to enjoy like a well thought out future, colonization, as well as how different societies have developed and evolved over time. There is enough on the surface to scratch any SciFi lover’s itch. However, when you look a little deeper, the book itself lacks that inventive edge I often look for in this genre. I felt it acutely. While the world building, cultures and evolution of said cultures is well thought out and rather fascinating, it never stretched into never-seen-before territory. Furthermore, the world building itself, while interesting, lacked a depth I’d expect from a SciFi book.

This is, perhaps, where the crux of this book lies. A lot of readers, when reading a space opera, will expect more from the world and characters than The Kassa Gambit is willing to offer. That will probably be a sticking point for many readers. In a genre full of such inventive worlds and technology, there really isn’t much there that is going to stick in your mind, or keep you holding on and saying wow long after the book is over.

That being said, the plot is fast moving and coupled nicely with political intrigue, a dash of thriller, and a nice layer of interstellar space opera type travel. Things move forward at a fast clip, and at times there is little occasion to catch your breath before the next thing happens. The Kassa Gambit isn’t a long book, and this quick pace will easily make this a fast, fun read. Despite the various aspects of the book that might not work well for some readers, the fast, action filled plot will inevitably help you through the rougher points. 

The Kassa Gambit switches perspectives between Prudence, or Pru and Kyle. Both characters have pasts that are complex and mysterious and only hinted at throughout much of the book. While the characters are fun and exciting, and fit the pacing of the book well, there’s an unreal quality to them, perhaps aided by the fact that they aren’t incredibly well developed. In fact, at times they come across rather two-dimensional and their dialogue can be somewhat stilted and unbelievable. While the characters are two unique individuals, often their dialogue doesn’t reflect that. Furthermore, the development of a relationship won’t come off as a shock to anyone, but the authors spends very little time developing that relationship. One second they are fond of each other and the next they are involved in a hot-and-heavy relationship. I missed the development and the slow building of feelings cultivated by two distinct individuals. The lack of it made the characters, and their relationship, rather unbelievable.

It takes some time for readers to be familiar with the various cultures and the politics of the Legion, but it doesn’t take long. Planck does a good job at introducing potentially complex ideas in an easy to understand way. This will, inevitably, help readers appreciate the plot more. This also makes The Kassa Gambit a good novel for individuals to read who might be a little less familiar or easy with many complex aspects of space operas.

The Kassa Gambit has a lot to offer readers who are looking forward to something fun and fast that has the feel of a thriller about it. This book would make a great introduction to space operas or science fiction to those interested in looking into the genre. It’s easy to understand and digest and Planck does a great job presenting complex ideas in a simple, easy to understand way. Those tried and true in the genre might miss the inventive, never-done-before feel that most SciFi books have. The characters are a little stilted and unbelievable and the book lacks the complexity that readers might be looking for in a science fiction/space opera style book. That being said, the relentlessly fast, fun plot is worth trying out. While the pros and cons are fairly balanced, The Kassa Gambit is the start of a promising series that is worth keeping an eye on.


3/5 stars

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