The galaxy is mired in a cold war between two superpowers, the Illyrican Empire and the Commonwealth. Thrust between this struggle are Simon Kovalic, the Commonwealth’s preeminent spy, and Kyle Rankin, a lowly soldier happily scrubbing toilets on Sabea, a remote and isolated planet. However, nothing is as it seems.
Kyle Rankin is a lie. His real name is Eli Brody, and he fled his home world of Caledonia years ago. Simon Kovalic knows Caledonia is a lit fuse hurtling towards detonation. The past Brody so desperately tried to abandon can grant him access to people and places that are off limits even to a professional spy like Kovalic.
Kovalic needs Eli Brody to come home and face his past. With Brody suddenly cast in a play he never auditioned for, he and Kovalic will quickly realize it’s everything they don’t know that will tip the scales of galactic peace. Sounds like a desperate plan, sure, but what gambit isn’t?
The Caledonian Gambit is a throwback to the classic sci-fi adventures of spies and off-world politics, but filled to the brim with modern sensibilities.
Tech writer and podcaster Moren's debut is a competent, if unambitious, space adventure. Wisecracking Elijah Brody decided to sign up for the aggressive Illyrican space fleet even though the Illyricans exert harsh control over his home world, Caledonia; he cared about flight, not politics. But a transport wormhole is destroyed in a defensive move that leaves thousands dead and Eli trapped on an isolated planet for five years. When it reopens, Simon Kovalic, an intelligence officer from the rival superpower called the Commonweath, collects him in hopes of acquiring information about a game-changing weapon, a task that gets Eli involved with the radical Caledonian resistance. The political element is bland, but the action scenes, both on the ground and in space, show a focus on thoughtful planning and careful pacing. The characterization delves just enough into emotionality to give the characters realism without moving the focus away from fights, intrigue, and spycraft. Though the ending is less shocking to the reader than to the characters, Moren makes its unfolding both natural and satisfying.