Jake has married his emperor, but happily ever after is for fairy tales.
The empire is restless. The nobility isn’t hiding their distaste for Jake, the unclass who married the emperor. The unclass see him as proof that they can be more, and they’re not going to sit by and wait any longer.
And someone is trying to kill Jake.
As friends become enemies, and enemies become allies, Jake has to discover the catalyst that has his world cascading into chaos, and protect those he loves, even the ones he doesn’t know about yet. And he has to do it before the empire comes crashing down…or the assassin stalking him succeeds.
Leah Petersen lives in North Carolina manipulating numbers by day and the universe by night. She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She’s still working on knitting while writing.
It's always interesting to see traditional gender roles upset or reversed in fiction. After reading Cascade Effect I do believe we can safely say that this is Leah Petersen's wheelhouse.
Cascade Effect is the sequel to Fighting Gravity, and follows newlywed and newly-princed Jake Dawes as he navigates married life as the second-most important person in a star-spanning empire, the most important person being his husband, the Emperor.
Yes, it's one of "those books", as some people might say, a novel that dares to have gay characters without making a huge fuss about it. This is a common thread carried over from Fighting Gravity, and one that more authors should pick up.
The best way I can think to describe this book is it's a domestic sci-fi romance. There's scheming and plots galore going on in the background, along with a few digs at religious fundamentalism and some notions of class-warfare, but the core of the story is between Jake and his husband Pete, the monarchical Emperor. The story ebbs and flows around these too men and the conflicts in their relationship caused by things unsaid and the pressures of outside forces.
I do love the consistency of the characters in Cascade Effect. These are the same people we met in Fighting Gravity. Jake is still Jake; angry, headstrong, and stubborn to a fault. Half of his problems could be solved if he just learned how to bend and compromise, but if he did that then he wouldn't be Jake. He remains a man outside of everything and unsure who he can trust even as he loves deeply.
Aside from the consistency of the characters, Cascade Effect lets us see a bit more of the world Leah Petersen has constructed. I liked that this book involved itself more in the class struggle between the Empire's lowest and highest, putting Jake at the very centre of that struggle since he belongs to both groups simultaneously. It can be extremely hard to talk about class struggle and the poor without sounding too preachy, and I believe Leah manages to achieve this balance. Through the use of multiple different unclass characters she's makes them real to the reader in the same way they are real to Jake. They aren't saints but neither are they devils. They're just people.
My one criticism of the book would be that it doesn't spend enough time on the class struggle and the various plots going on around Jake while spending too much time focused on the relationships around him. At times it seems that Jake is filling the role of "woman who endures" from romantic fiction, and thereby has less agency than should be expected from a protagonist, no matter their gender.
Still, lack of agency aside, Cascade Effect is a compelling read and the credit for that lies at Leah Petersen's feet. Nothing ever feels forced or lagging, and the book moves at a brisk pace. I'm a fast reader, but even I was surprised at how quickly I made it through. The only other author in recent memory I can think to compare her to is Mary Robinette Kowal. Both have the ability to make subjects I would normally find dreadfully dull and excruciating to read entertaining instead.
If you enjoyed Fighting Gravity pick up Cascasde Effect. If you haven't read Fighting Gravity then pick up both so you're well stocked for beach-reading while on vacation. Either way, enjoy.
I've read the book before, and decided to go back and re-read the series again. I'm glad I did! I remember the characters so well and it was like finally hanging out with a friend I haven't seen for a long time. And I'm glad that this series held up for a second read. If you are absolutely against any typos, I caught a few, though they slipped by mostly unnoticed as I was so engrossed in the story. I read this book in one day both times I've read it. It's that good. I didn't want to put it down at all, and ran right through it, start to finish. I'm still in awe! I was just as emotionally invested in the characters and story—even knowing what happens next.
In this sequel to Fighting Gravity, we encounter many of the cast of characters from the previous book. One thing I like is that Leah Petersen doesn't seem to have random characters as plot devices. We see the same cast throughout, and that lends the credibility of real-world permanence through the eyes of a character that often seems to forget other people exist (he is a scientist after all). Though the book primarily focuses on the new marriage between Jake and Pete, we do get further glimpses into the world Ms. Petersen has created. She is very light on the sci-fi elements, though they are so well-chosen and well-placed it never feels like this is taking place in today's time. I missed seeing and hearing about Jake and his research that was present in the first book. There is some, but political intrigue occupies a lot of his time.
On a very deeper level, Ms. Petersen explores a hard-hitting topic current to today: poverty and class struggle. She uses her characters to explore this struggle on a scale blown out from what we live now, but could logically come to be, and I think that through this conversation, advocates for the plight of the homeless and poor. Using Jake as a mouthpiece, she brushes off the current public sentiment that the poor are in their situation "because they don't want to work." Though not as drawn fully to it's conclusion, I feel the statements made in the book, and series, while not offering solutions to us, offer a glimpse of what could be if we don't find them today—and that is something that's horrifying to think about. While this is by no means the extent of the depth of the book, it's one of the major conflicts of the series and one that deserves some discussion.
The only issue I had with this book was that it ended (of course, I know there is book 3), and that I don't get to explore the world forever. This is an excellent sequel in an excellent series. I cannot wait for more by Leah Petersen. I know I won't be disappointed.
As a last thought, I wanted to point out my thoughts on Jake's sexuality and the way Ms. Petersen writes this world. Jake is probably not gay. He's more likely bisexual and I think that's important to point out to potential readers. While the author makes no mention of the facts itself or states it openly, I think in her world there is little stigma to something of that nature and as an LGBT person myself, I find that I rather like that the sexuality of the characters never comes into question. There is no agonizing over it, no worrying about that element. Okay /soapbox.
Was super excited to get my hands on an early eBook of Leah's sci-fi sequel, Cascade Effect - I'd read a version of it long, long ago before it got picked up by Dragon Moon Press, so I was curious to see what it'd turned into.
Petersen seems to be following a similar structure to cinematic comic book trilogies. The first tale (Fighting Gravity) is a pure origin story. Where our hero, Jake, came from, and the process of stepping into a role larger than anything he could have imagined. The second installment explores the consequences of his choice to marry the emperor of the universe.
In case you haven't read my review of Fighting Gravity, both characters are men. And gay.
Odd that I'd be reading this as the Supreme Court hears cases on marriage equality - but Jake's world and our world are years apart, both literally and figuratively. In Cascade Effect, the question of whether or not two men can be married isn't even an issue. Instead, the conflict comes from Jake's birth and upbringing in the lowest of the slums in Mexico, and the emperor's high birth.
The strongest part of this book is Jake's character. After the events of Fighting Gravity, he's left with demons and secrets he can't tell even his husband. And everything about his new life wants to reject him. It's obvious throughout the entire book that Jake is out over his skis, with no idea how to maneuver the political whitewater around the emperor. Couple that with the fact that Jake is maddeningly dense in that he can't get out of his own way. He's trying to do the right thing, but he truly is his own worst enemy. In many books, this might lead to an unlikable, annoying character, but Petersen handles it masterfully. You want Jake to turn the corner and be happy, and you root for him, despite his flaws, the entire way.
The are moments of genuine tenderness in the book. Despite the interplanetary sci-fi themes, the political intrigue and the story being set far in the future - at its heard, Cascade Effect is the story of a relationship between Jake and Pete. It's messy, it doesn't always work, but it feels real. It's huge and epic, yet intimate at the same time. Their journey in finding a way to have a child of their own is heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time, something that could have easily been lost in the less capable hands of other authors.
One thing I'm not sure I liked about the book was how much Jake seemed to lose who he was. I suppose that was part of what he was dealing with - in Fighting Gravity he was a brilliant scientific mind, one of the youngest in the universe. In Cascade Effect, he's little more than the Emperor's arm candy to many of those around him. I felt it as a reader, but it didn't seem to come through in Jake's internal battles. There were a few times when he tried to lose himself in research, but I didn't feel like losing that aspect of his life was truly an issue for him. Even when one of his scientific endeavors goes horribly wrong, Jake doesn't question his choices.
Any sci-fi fan would be well served to pick up Fighting Gravity and Cascade Effect. Personally, I can't wait for the next installment.
Well I hopped right into this book. I had to know the answers to the questions that were left off in the last book. Of course, nothing is ever smooth sailing for Pete and Jake. I really enjoyed reading more about Pete/Jake and see how things pan out after the are married. Will things get better? Worse? What will happen to society/unclass.
In this book, someone/s are trying to kill Jake. Poor fellows, do not get a moment of peace. Jake's status has been changed to Duke. Now, according to the 'law' you can only be moved up one social status rank. But what the emperor says, is law and is always right. So, because the Emperor made him Duke, so be it. Then of course, Jake is also the "Prince" because he is not royalty by marriage.
Throughout this book, you are trying to find out who is killing Jake. It becomes obvious that it is because of his social status of an 'unclass'. There is a person/s trying to use Jake as an scapegoat. The unclass is unruly, because Jake's status changing. So now the unclass feels they should be more privileged also. Jake is trying his best to help improve the unclass. He feels that he knows who is behind it, despite no one else believing him.
Also, when all this is going around, they Pete/Jake decide to have a baby/heir. One of the things that were advanced in this 'world' is the medical ability to use the DNA of two men and produce a baby. All that was needed was a pedigree dish and a surrogate mother. Of course, there are setbacks.
Some people you have come to enjoy end up not surviving. Despite you find out who the person/s is behind Jake's (attempted) assassins, I'd love to see a third book on Pete/Jake.
In the second book of the Physics of Falling series, called Cascade Effect, author Leah Petersen builds on the origin story of Fighting Gravity and throws our newlyweds—Jake and Pete—into the political machinations and maneuvering of the Emperor’s court.
The future in Petersen’s universe has made peace with the subject of homosexuality, but still struggles with class as the elite of the Empire continue to scheme against the young couple. The intricate web woven here reminded me greatly of Robert Graves’ “I Claudius,” and is a testament to Petersen’s plotting and overall storytelling skills.
But even with the fluidity of loyalties and the complexity of the schemes afoot, Cascade Effect shines the most in scenes between Pete and Jake. The relationship is the cornerstone of the trilogy, and the depth in which Petersen explores how the men grow together and expand their family is touching. You will care what happens to these characters and the rollercoaster of emotions the reader will feel will leave you both exhausted and wanting the third book simultaneously.
Petersen’s growth as an author is obvious and I look forward to more from this young writer.
Leah Petersen has written an excellent continuation of the life of Jacob (Jake) Dawes. Regardless of the Emperor's forgiveness, there was bound to be cascading effects of to their marriage. Jacob takes it upon himself to stand up to the bullies, but these bullies aren't playing the playground game he's use to. He doesn't know how to play, what rules are, or even which game it is. All he knows is that it's his life their messing with, and he can't let them get away with it. And if that wasn't enough, Pete wants kids.
Bravo to Leah for hurdling the second book curse that I find plagues so many trilogies. I look forward to the next tale in the Physics of Falling series, but at the same time I am not left painfully salivating in bewildered wonderment of how it all ends. It is a story within itself, with the appearance of a Happily Ever After.
Book 2 of this Trilogy answers a lot of questions about Jacob. I was glad that the pieces fell into place. This is an excellent Trilogy especially for people who are not into Sci-Fi. It has changed my idea of Sci-Fi. Can't wait to finish the Trilogy to find out how it ends!!!
Cascade Effect, the sequel to Fighting Gravity by Leah Petersen, is a deeply moving science fiction novel told from the perspective of Jacob Dawes, the Emperor’s newly wed husband, as he attempts to avoid assassins who believe that his low birth should bar him from the palace grounds and the ranks of royalty. His very existence now threatens the status quo, and Jacob, for his part, is well aware of what is at stake not only for himself but for billions of so-called unclass citizens throughout the Empire. What he doesn’t know, and desperately needs to figure out, is how to protect anything he holds dear in a universe where he can’t seem to effect any significant change at all. Leah Petersen has captured the disillusionment that young adults face when they realize that the world is broken and its problems are not easy to identify precisely, let alone fix. The unclass in Cascade Effect face distressingly realistic conditions that mirror what the poor face every day in our own world, and Jacob and other powerful men and women encounter similar obstacles any time that they attempt to improve the slums and the legal status of the unclass. We can empathize with Jacob as he selflessly pits his all against a plethora of problems much bigger than himself, knowing that very powerful enemies will attempt to undermine his efforts. A handful of precious friends join in his projects, putting their own lives in danger for the sake of a humanitarian cause that is ripping the Empire asunder.
Humanity isn't the only thing shown in its complicated and fragile form. On a more intimate level, we see how delicate Jacob can be in the face of frequent physical and emotional blows. On top of his traumatic past, he must also endure constant bombardment from antagonists determined to destroy his present and future. Leah Petersen brings us into Jacob’s painful perspective as we see him lose his temper, hyperventilate, pass out, and break down in tears under immense stress. Other characters also exhibit strong emotions, but it is Jacob Dawes who is falling apart because he keeps attempting to face Life alone, despite the fact that he has Pete, his Emperor and loving husband, to rely on, as well as a few other trustworthy friends. Yet, Jacob is not certain that even his husband can understand the psychological torture that is being purposefully perpetrated against him, and even the Emperor’s help can be constrained by the legal and political pressures that are squeezing not only Jacob and Pete’s personal life, but the stability of the entire Empire.
Cascade Effect is a beautiful novel, a worthy sequel that’s profound on multiple levels. We see terrorism, starvation, and death. We see unmitigated hate, including from Jacob. Yet we also see that goodness pushes up everywhere, like seedlings braving rocky soil. We see that even awful people often care about their children. We see Jacob’s hope that science can ameliorate the suffering of the poor when caring hearts get behind it. And even when sad things happen, there is usually a character somewhere with a mature, heartfelt response. So it is that we see that love can forgive almost any sin and therein, perhaps, shines the common hope of any human life, no matter our social strata.