Summary: Centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for resources 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.
Welcome Micheal to Poisoned Rationality! I do believe this is the first time I've reviewed and interviewed a set of spouses at different times about different books, so this is a rather novel thing :)
We’re a novel family. Well, the latest addition isn’t, but we have hopes. :D
Easy question first! Describe THE KASSA GAMBIT in 140 characters or less.
Aliens attack! Followed by much heroic brooding.
What was the very first thing (or one of the first things) you thought of when you began writing?
I had a dream about a wizard on a lonely island perpetually covered in storms. I didn’t want to lose the way that image made me feel, so I took a community college short-story writing class. I’m pretty happy with the story that came out of it, though I never sold it.
THE KASSA GAMBIT explores quite a different ideas about humanity's future--technology will make us unto Gods for instance and the 'okimune' (the collective human realm). Are these concepts you've discussed before? Where did 'okimune' come from?
Okimune is one spelling variant of ecumene, a word so obscure it’s hard to find in any dictionary. It’s derived from Greek and mostly used in apologetics, but I got it from Jack Vance (although he spelled it ”oikumene” ). It’s a great concept; it distinguishes the civilized from the uncivilized; so pirate bases and lost worlds aren’t part of the oikumene even though they’re human.
The currently popular cyber-punk term “the Grid” has a similar meaning. To be off the grid is to be outside of civilization. In Vance’s books, the outside is called the “Beyond.” In my wife’s book (Song of Scarabaeus), she called it the “Crib,” as distinguished from the “Fringe.”
Prudence uses this word not so much to imply that the criminal elements should be left out of the loop, but rather to denote that this is a problem so large it is species-wide; everything that thinks of itself as human must be concerned with the first alien contact. The response to the aliens must not be a local or political act, but a collective act of all of civilization. Like global warming is for us, actually.
The transhumanist idea – that technology can remake our essential human nature – is actually handled quite skeptically in the book.
In Physics 101 the first thing the professor does is draw a lever and a weight. Then he draws a box around it and says, “We’re only going to worry about what’s inside the box.” This is a brilliant technique for reducing problems to something small enough to analyze, but the real world is still out there beyond the edges of your box. I have spent my professional career drawing bigger and bigger boxes, with more and more complex analyses, but invariably you run into the edge of the box and everything breaks. I doubt we can ever draw as big a box as the transhumanist idea requires.
Are we going to learn more about Pru's heritage--the gift from her mother, the planet she is constantly seeking?
I do have a sequel loosely sketched out, but right now I’m busy with a contemporary SF about dogs and a fantasy trilogy. Although I imagine I could be tempted to reorganize my priorities (hint hint, Booker Prize committee!).
Was it hard to come up with all the political and legal doubletalk that Kyle and to a lesser degree Pru, encounter during the quest for the truth? (its really impressive, especially the converse between Kyle and the Doc)
Actually, that’s just how I normally think. The hard part was not making the whole book like that.
Thank you for coming by Michael and I look forward to your next offering!
Thank you! - MCP
I should point out I have no issues with heroic brooding - its practically a requirement for the fictional men I love. And...quite frankly my idols have always been those on the outside.
What to know more? Check out Michael's website, his blog MC Planck Rebooted, and my review of The Kassa Gambit!