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Literature / Cassandra Kresnov

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A series of Post-Cyberpunk/Military Science Fiction Thriller novels by Australian author Joel Shepherd.

Cassandra Kresnov is a GI, a Ridiculously Human Gynoid created by the League government as a Super-Soldier for its war with the Federation. At war's end she escaped the League to avoid retirement and began living as a human in the cosmopolitan city Tanusha on the Federation world Callay. She was happy and having fun, but then she's discovered by the Federation Intelligence Agency, kidnapped, and vivisected to gain intelligence on League GIs. Fortunately for Sandy, the FIA safehouse is raided by a SWAT Team from the planetary police responding to a kidnapping. After being put back together and then proving her morals by helping foil the assassination of the governor of Callay, Sandy joins SWAT and begins working as a government agent, all the while dealing with threats such as FIA agents who want her skin (literally) and with the League government, which wants her back on their side.

The series began as a trilogy at the Turn of the Millennium, went on hiatus for several years while Shepherd worked on A Trial of Blood and Steel, then a sequel trilogy came out in The New '10s. In order of publication:

  • Crossover (2001)
  • Breakaway (2003)
  • Killswitch (2004)
  • 23 Years on Fire (2013)
  • Operation Shield (2014)
  • Originator (2015)


  • Absent Aliens: Played with. Aliens do exist, but they aren't actually relevant to the plot nor do they even appear on-page, until Originator.
  • Artificial Human/Ridiculously Human Robots: It's a very fine line with GIs, seemingly incorporating Organic Technology: they have artificial forms of blood, muscles, internal organs, and skin, and are virtually indistinguishable from an actual human (right down to a sex drive). However, their brains are computer-like enough to interface directly with actual computers, and they also feature interesting tricks like the ability to accurately go Guns Akimbo and empty a semiautomatic's clip faster than full-auto. Basic GI soldiers are pretty stupid and Federation solders tended to win on intelligence. Cassandra and her old squad are exceptions, having been created as a special operations unit.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: In-Universe example. In book two a League representative comments to Sandy regarding her attempts to behave human that, technically, her surname ought to be "Kresnova" because that's how Russian names work. Sandy points out she didn't get to choose her name.
  • Blessed with Suck: Combat-model GIs have synthetic muscles that harden like body armor under compression, making them highly resistant to projectiles and blunt impacts, shrugging off small-caliber arms fire and high falls with ease. The flipside is that Sandy and other GIs need to stretch constantly lest they stiffen up like a board and get highly painful cramps.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Science-fictional version with the names changed. The Federation Intelligence Agency kidnaps Sandy at the beginning of Crossover and takes her apart to learn about GIs, and spends the rest of the book trying to get its hands on her by extralegal means. Meanwhile the Callay Security Agency is the Callayan version of a State Bureau of Investigation, and Sandy ends up joining them.
  • Cute Bruiser: Downplayed. Sandy and other GIs are shorter than average, and Sandy explains that combat myomer doesn't handle well in large volumes - if she were a foot taller, she'd suffer chronic tension and be unable to control her own strength.
    • Played straight with Vanessa, who is petite and described as "cute", but sports heavy physical augmentation, is a crack shot and a very capable tactician.
  • Eagleland: Downplayed optimist flavor. The United States doesn't have the political clout it used to, having been overshadowed by South Asian nations, but Sandy's Internal Monologue describes the US as vocally opposed to FIA civil rights violations. In Breakaway a Texan-born Federation naval captain launches a targeted Orbital Bombardment to knock out Anti-Air weaponry and let Sandy catch a traitor.
  • Everyone Can See It: Both their SWAT squad mates (in Breakaway) and Ari (in Killswitch) seem to be aware that Vanessa is crushing hard on Sandy. The only one who doesn't notice is Sandy herself.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Present but not discussed in the first trilogy, as the series takes place entirely on Callay. The second trilogy has some brief ship travel.
  • Gambit Pileup: The series has many different political factions scheming against each other; as a result, this occurs in every single book.
    • In Crossover, the FIA and the League are in cahoots running a big black op in Tanusha together, attempting to capture Sandy, assassinate President Neiland and cleaning up a lot of loose ends from prior (illicit) FIA/League collaborations. The League government wants to clean up their mess after losing the war, the FIA wants to rein in the technophile and uppity Callay, the Federation-appointed Governor Dali attempts a de facto coup, the Callayan government is in a tough spot with the reigning president having a shaky power base within her own party, the SIB works at the behest of the Senate to further the goals of the President's opposition, and the CSA tries its best to function as a law enforcement agency in all this mess.
    • In Breakaway, Callay has had enough of Federation interference from Earth, various radical factions on Callay are embarking on terror campaigns, the newly-elected League government wants to turn over a new leaf, former Governor Dali is facing a trial that the FIA really doesn't want him to participate in, the SIB tries to get Sandy arrested, Neiland maneuvers in secret to move the Federation capital world from Earth to Callay, and all hell breaks loose when leaked information about the secret negotiations is about to surface.
    • In Killswitch, we learn that semi-disgraced League scientist Renaldo Takawashi wanted to restore his reputation by creating a high-designation GI that is guaranteed loyal, a rogue League faction wants the result of said experiment, "Jane", to conduct a series of assassinations to stir up internal conflict in the Federation, Secretary of State Grey is secretly working with said League splinter faction, the official League government tries to limit the damage, Federation Fleet 5 refuses to recognize the authority of newly-elected Federation capital Callay and steadily approaches open rebellion, and President Neiland and Director Ibrahim decide to use Sandy as bait (without her knowledge) in a mole hunt trying to flush out the traitors in the State Department.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Federation-League War for which Sandy was created. Remarkably little detail is available: we're never even told for certain who won (it's implied the Federation "won" but left the League basically intact).
  • Guns Akimbo: Sandy and other GIs are designed to be capable of this, complete with a trigger-pull function on either hand that lets them empty the clip on a semiautomatic pistol faster than full-auto could (which Sandy is told to demonstrate in court, minus the actual firearms, when the Callayans are deciding whether to grant her political asylum).
  • Humans Are White: Averted. Callayans are predominantly of Indian, Middle-Eastern, and South American descent, and Caucasians are a minority. It's explained in book two that Asia took the reins of power away from Europe and the United States at some point in the Backstory, something the Americans in particular are still a little cheesed off over (at one point a Texan starship captain helps out Sandy with an Orbital Bombardment pretty much just to piss off India). Cassandra herself looks Caucasian but she was designed that way.
  • Incompatible Orientation/Stupid Sexy Friend: Cassandra is straight, but the bisexual Vanessa falls in love with her by book three anyway.
  • Inhumanable Alien Rights: Whether Sandy is legally a person or a weapon is a major component of the first book's plot. She convinces Callay to grant her political asylum and citizenship partly by proving her morals by foiling the assassination of the planetary governor.
  • Inter-Service Rivalry:
    • Violently between the Callay Security Agency and the Federation Intelligence Agency. The FIA is guilty of serious human rights abuses in the name of national security, including kidnapping Sandy off the street. The FIA's excesses are part of the reason Callay eventually unseats Earth as capital of the Federation.
    • The CSA also has one with the Senate Investigation Bureau, an agency that works for the Callayan legislature and which the CSA views, not without reason, as a bunch of politically motivated idiots who obstruct legit police work to score PR points.
  • Intimate Psychotherapy: Literal example. Cassandra recalls having a sexual relationship with her unit shrink when she worked for the League. This was noted to be unusual, but the brass ignored it because it worked.
  • Mama Bear: Sandy befriends a trio of war orphans in Operation Shield, of whom she is violently protective.
  • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: Gender Flipped. In Killswitch, Cassandra's acquired a human long-term boyfriend (Callay Security Agency operative Ari), and in an early scene she explains to him why she always insists on finishing up doggy-style: orgasm is about the only time where she can't control her body well enough to be sure she won't accidentally hurt him.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Lampshaded in Crossover. By Sandy's own admission, she pretty much only has breasts because her (male) creators didn't like the idea of a flat-chested Artificial Human Super-Soldier.
  • Post Cyber Punk: With a Military Science Fiction backdrop for flavor. Sandy is an Artificial Human Super-Soldier who works for Callay's planetary police after gaining political asylum there, and Tanusha is portrayed as a mostly happy cosmopolitan city of shiny skyscrapers instead of a dingy, crime-ridden place.
  • Protagonist Title: <book title>: A Cassandra Kresnov Novel
  • Robosexual: Unclear whether it applies to all GIs or just Sandy's unit, but she had sexual relationships with her male squadmates and her unit shrink, and had a string of one-night stands between leaving the League and the events of Crossover. By Killswitch she's started dating Ari.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Captain Reichardt of the Mekong, who helps Sandy's unit out of a jam in Breakaway, is from Texas.
  • Super-Toughness: GIs' construction means they can survive hits that would incapacitate or kill a human. In Crossover Sandy crashes a motorcycle at very high speed and hits the ground running, while in Breakaway she's gut-shot twice and only suffers blunt-force trauma. She also explains to Vanessa in Crossover that her equivalent to a carotid artery and jugular vein are housed inside her spinal column, so a Slashed Throat doesn't work on her either.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: discussed by Vanessa and Sandy in Killswitch. At that point in the story, Sandy has several close (platonic) friendships and a Friends with Benefits relationship with Ari, but has shown no indication of ever been in romantic love in her 17 years of existence. Other GIs are depicted similarly, and it is implied that the League scientists may have deliberately messed with GI neurology to keep them from falling in love with their partners.
    • This is ultimately subverted with Rhian Chu and Sandy in the second trilogy. Rhian really wants to have (adopted) children and defects from the League over it, and is shown to be a loving parent. Sandy, meanwhile, instantly bonds with Danya, Svetlana and Kirin when she meets them in 23 Years on Fire, and clearly has developed maternal feelings by Originator, where she outright panics during and after a series of close calls with the children in danger.