Cassastar is the Freshman effort of author Alex Cavanaugh. Full disclosure: I read Alex's Blog and enjoy it, he also has been known to visit my blog. I was actually leary of reading the book as I didn't want to not like it. I mean, I read his blog and while Cavanaugh can be entertaining in short bursts, I didn't know if he could carry it over to long form. I was worried for nothing it seems.
Cassastar follows youn Byron through flight school and his first assignment as he learns to fly star fighters. Yes, the theme music from Top Gun was running through my head the whole time I was reading the book, but I think Byron is probably more like Iceman that he is Maverick. It is fully scifi, and while the characters are humanoid there is nothing that I noticed that said that they were specifically human. So this is a book that should be accessable by all humaniod life forms (which I am sure was the intent).
Plot- This is a familiar plot. Not only is it similar to Top Gun, but also to other scifi novels. I wouldn't say that it is cliche, but it is a well worn path. In my estimation, if you choose the well worn path, you have to do something to set yourself apart.
Characters- Character is where Cavanaugh really makes his impression. The reader will start out not liking Byron that much, but through the narrative, the character grows and his motivations are revealed. Characters don't just act a certain way, Cavanaugh shapes their pasts and makes them real, makes their actions seem in character.
Overall- It was an enjoyable book and a pretty quick read. Cavanaugh proved to me that he is in fact capable of long form fiction and that his strength seems to lie in characterization. Cassastar will soon be followed by another book that follows Byron on the next leg of his journey and I am looking forward to it. If you like Top Gun and science fiction, give this one a try. If you didn't like top gun because of tom cruise, but you still like the flying part, you are pretty safe as well. It is appropriate for all ages and all sentient humanoid species.