A review by Rebecca Muir
Publisher: Pyr (Prometheus Books)
Format: paperback, 461 pages
Operation Shield is the fifth book in Joel Shepherd’s Cassandra Kresnov series. You can read my review of the previous book, 23 Years on Fire.
Cassandra, or Sandy, is a fully synthetic human created by the League as a soldier. She and her kind are known as GIs. Sandy is a high designation GI, meaning that she is faster and smarter than other GIs. Sandy has defected from the League and become a citizen of the Federation, where she is a high level security operative.
Operation Shield opens with Sandy on Pantala, a world in the nominally League region known as New Torah. Sandy is trying to help consolidate the rebellion of the experimental GIs against the Corporations who rule on Pantala, and who have been illegally making GIs. However, her fellow GIs are impatient, unwilling to let her experience and superior strategic skills guide them. They embark on a path that leads to disaster. Sandy walks away and returns to the Federation, partly because of their rejection, but also to save the lives of three children she has met on Pantala: Danya, Svetlana and Kiril. These three siblings have won their way into her heart so she takes them back to Callay, the Federation homeworld and becomes their legal guardian.
However, trouble awaits Sandy back home. Elements of the society are increasingly unhappy about recent Federation activity, at home and in New Torah. Scared of a new war with the League, a political faction seeks to have Sandy and her friends removed from power, and the Federation constitution changed to prevent war. Sandy must face and deal with threats to herself and her way of life, her society and home, her fellow GIs and the fate of synthetic humanity, and her new family. With so much at stake, can Sandy keep everything she holds dear safe?
Operation Shield is very much a thriller. There is intrigue and action that kept me turning the pages. There are a lot of battle scenes but there is also thoughtful exploration of issues such as family and what that means, sacrifice — what is worth giving everything for — and identity. In this book Sandy learns a more about herself and where she came from. This raises more questions for her, but she also is more at peace with herself than in the last book.
The place of the GIs in society is considered. Questions are raised about whether synthetic humans are GIs first, or humans first. Should Sandy be the leader of the GIs simply because she has a higher designation than them? Also, how does a GI who is built for combat find their identity in something outside that?
The characters in this book are well written. They have depth and they are fun to get to know. The strong characterisation is what lifts these books and makes them stand out for me.
I enjoyed reading Operation Shield and I recommend it to people who like sci-fi with lots of action. There are some parts of the book which make it unsuitable for young readers. If you have not read any of the other books in the series, I would of course suggest starting with an earlier book, but if you start with this one you should be able to make sense of what is happening. This is a fun read and I look forward to any further instalments.