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Crossover by Joel Shepherd - a review

Crossover, the first book in a new science fiction series written by Australian author Joel Shepherd, follows Cassandra Kresnov, an artificial human. It was shortlisted for the 2001 Aurealis Awards before being published in the United States. Two sequels will be forthcoming.

Cassandra Kresnov is a GI, an artificial human, built for fighting. But even among GIs she is different. Unlike lower level GIs, she was designed to think like a human and it is this trait that leads her to question her superiors within the League. After the members of her team are sent on a suicide mission without her, Cassandra goes AWOL. She tries to create a normal human life in the luxurious city of Tanusha, the capital of Callay, but she is found. Her captors dissect her, only stopping when a Callayan SWAT team discovers them. Cassandra later awakes, drugged and bound in the custody of the Callayan Security Association. Many in the CSA must reevaluate their opinion of GIs as somehow less than human when Cassandra is asked to assist them in a political battle.

I have a mixed opinion about Crossover. I loved both the beginning and the end, but somewhere in the middle I got lost in all the political intrigue. I had a bit of trouble remembering who was on what side and what each side was up to. In retrospect, I can see the whole of the story and understand it, but while immersed in the world, I got confused. Towards the end of the novel, a character muses on the different political ideologies and that cleared up my questions; I just wished it had been earlier in the book.

Crossover does have many great assets. Shepherd has mastered action scenes. His words painted a vivid scene and I couldn't read them fast enough. The characterization is wonderful as well. I had a very real sense of who Cassandra was and how she was a live, thinking, albeit mechanical, being. But at the same time I could clearly see the human concerns about her strength and seeming invincibility. Not everyone was willing to accept her and several characters were able to change their opinions. The friendship that developed between Cassandra and her fellow SWAT member Vanessa rang true.

My Recommendation
As I said before, I have mixed feelings about Crossover, but by no means can I give this a thumbs down. With the great action and characters, there's too much quality here to dislike the novel. This is one of the few novels I've read that shows not only political reactions, but also a very human and personal reaction to an artificial human. If you like political intrigue (or at least are able to follow it), Crossover is a good read.

The sequel Breakaway is also available

Crossover is available at Amazon.com

Pyr Publishing provided me with a free review copy of Crossover

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