Killswitch is the final volume, at this time, in the Cassandra Kresnov series and it wraps things up with a bang. Where the previous novel, Breakaway, was mired down with political intrigue, Killswitch dumps the politics, mostly, in favor of letting Cassandra do what she does best: Kick bad guy butt at breakneck pace. I urge all Kresnov fans to pick this book up at your earliest convenience and enjoy the ride. If you’re on the fence, and if movies or TV shows like Ghost in the Shell of Bionic Woman appeal to you, the Cassandra Kresnov novels are well worth your time. In fact, if NBC had been smart, they would have dumped the Bionic Woman re-boot and optioned Cassandra’s stories from Shephard. These books cry out for some type of screen (big or small) time. (I’m looking at you Sci Fi Channel. Convince Kate Beckinsale to play Cassandra and you won’t be able to keep the SF fans from storming the channel.)
This review will be short and sweet. Of the three Kresnov novels, this one is the best. It’s almost non-stop action from start to finish as Cassandra Kresnov is forced to hide in Callay’s underground, all the while trying to thwart the planet’s enemies who would like nothing better than to wrest control of the Federation away and place it back with Earth. All the political maneuvering and intrigue from Breakaway is basically stage setting for Killswitch. With all the pieces in place, Shephard is free to have Kresnov run around attempting to discover who is trying to overthrow Callay’s new found power in the Federation and to try and stop an apparent unknown GI, like herself, that has been set to kill Cassandra. The plot moves from action sequence to action sequence, with only a few moments to catch your breath.
If there’s anything Shephard can do well, it’s action sequences. Everything you’d expect a synthetic being like Kresnov to do, she does. And Shephard’s prose brings it to life with widescreen clarity. This is the heroine the Bionic Woman should have been. Smart and supremely confident, but also touched with great empathy for her fellow non-GI beings. One of the strengths of this whole series has been Cassandra’s growth as a person, as she comes to grips with being more than human in abilities, yet emotionally and morally invested in doing the right thing for everyone has a whole. When we first meet her, Cassandra was fresh from leaving the League and it’s shadow ops Dark Star unit, where killing anything was her job, and carried no emotional weight whatsoever. Contrast that with the final meeting between Cassandra and the GI sent to kill her. Cassandra’s actions show how far she’s come in becoming a ‘full’ person, with a sense of right and wrong. Some may want a more traditional ending here, but I feel what Shephard did was better and deeper than what you may expect.
About the only thing that bothered me was the titular Killswitch. Apparently Cassandra has a killswitch hardwired into her brain stem that can allow someone, with the proper code, to shut down her brain, effectively killing here. A couple of attempts to use it are tried, but the killswitch seemed to be less dramatic storywise than the title suggests, especially after steps are taken to nullify it. And most of the explanation for its nullification seemed to border on technobabble. Too much so for my comfort.
However, that is a niggling issue, one that only slightly diminishes an otherwise action packed story. If it’s any indication, I managed to read this book in just 2 days over the Christmas break, and that’s with everything else I had going on. I even stopped playing Mass Effect because I didn’t want to put this book down. My only other gripe is that it appears that Cassandra’s story has come to a conclusion.