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The Caledonian Gambit

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  651 ratings  ·  101 reviews
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 fl
Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published May 23rd 2017 by Talos
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Feb 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This isn't bad for a first book from an author. However, one of the top rated reviews here compares Caledonian Gambit to the Vorkosigan series, and I can assure you that it doesn't really compare to that in anyway (other than being a sci-fi book). The humor, characters and plot don't even come close to Bujold's work (the Vorkosigan books are my favorite sci-fi series - so it's a very high bar).

That being said, it was a pretty good spy-caper, as long as you're not expecting anything new or surpri
Chad Kohalyk
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, scifi
Dan's long-awaited first novel. Congratulations! Interesting mashing up of genres here. Some funny lines, but sometimes he tries too hard to be quippy. I don't know if all the cliched language is supposed to be an homage to old detective novels or what, but I found the language took me out of the book quite a few times. Storywise it is a pretty good romp though, and if you think there should be more Scots-Irish in space, this is your book!
Jordan Atlas
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Moren sets up a truly compelling world in his first novel. It feels like a cross between a Lois McMaster Bujold story and something out of Rainbow Six. Funny, smart, and I couldn't put it down by the end. The book was a pleasure to read and I'm looking forward to the next one. Highly recommended.
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I rarely read space opera, but this was a bit slow for my taste. The attempt at humor was very cliche, which did not help. The book was not bad, just okay. I listened to the audiobook and the narration was good.
Mike Vrobel
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Action packed space adventure with a sense of humor

This was a fun read - I hope we get to return to this world in a follow up adventure!
Oct 15, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Given the title, cover and blurb, I thought it was a safe bet this was a sci-fi book. However, given that the vast majority of the events could just as easily take place in any modern day action novel, the sci-fi tag is a bit misleading. The story supposedly takes place a couple of centuries in the future, where wormholes have already been figured out and used to colonize multiple solar systems. So the fact that almost every other technology seems to have remained virtually unchanged is a bit of ...more
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was OK. It wasn't bad or particularly good, it was just OK. The protagonist was less interesting than the other characters (even the antagonist was more colorful and had more motivation). There were some witty dialogues, and a few short actions, otherwise it felt like a slow hike up a mountain.

(view spoiler)
William Bentrim
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Caldonian Gambit by Dan Moren

A repressive galactic imperium intends to conquer another star system when said star system destroys their access to the galaxy. A lone prisoner, Eli, finds himself scrubbing toilets for the intended victim. After five long years, Eli finds himself free but immersed in a plot to thwart the imperium he had served.

Moren does a nice job with his characters. Eli and his PTS is sadly demonstrative of many of our current service people coming home from the wars. Eli’s
Jo  (Mixed Book Bag)
Eli Brody does not fit anywhere. After all everyone thinks he is dead. That is the start to a thrill a minute space opera with some science mixed in. Eli is tasked to find who and what is being developed and used as a weapon and stop its use. He has to deal with family, spies, old gang members, and not knowing who to trust. This is a fun read with a very well developed plot, fully fleshed out characters, and good world building. This ended with the mystery solved but there could be a interesting ...more
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The narrative starts up quickly with some good space-fighting action, then turns to puzzling spy/ family drama. A good scifi spy novel with satisfying characters and just enough twists to keep you guessing. The interplanetary politics are fun, but ultimately, the dysfunctional family issues drove the plot for me.

For my full review:

For all my reviews:
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

While predictable most of the way through, I couldn't put down this space romp.

It's not hard science fiction, similar to The Expanse I'd say. Family members on opposite sides their allegiance to one another is tested.

Again, nothing new or wholly original, but when something is done well it hardly matters.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Caledonian Gambit is a political intrigue spy novel that happens to take occur in space. I noticed a lot of reviewers on Goodreads took exception to the fact that intelligence gathering and the effect of politics on family relationships took first billing over pure science fiction, but I don’t really have a problem with that. Sci-Fi has always been used to reflect upon human reality in that way.

I like the characters, despite what some of the grumblers felt about Eli Brody’s lack of competenc
A pleasant easy read of a book. For long stretches, it didn’t even seem like SF, more like a terrestrial spy thriller, but the opening and the ending involves space flight, so it qualifies.
The story takes place over three action-packed days, principally following Eli Brody, a native of the planet Caledonia who, nine years earlier, left to join the Space Navy of the hated Illyrican overlords, as he had always wanted to fly. Unfortunately, his first and only mission was a disaster, and he’s been
Too many science fiction novels focus on the whiz-bang special effects, and then rely on stock characters with crystal-clear good / bad alignments. Fortunately, Moren's story is free of this defect: characters on all sides of the political & cultural divides in the novel are a blend of good and bad (and indifferent), giving the novel a healthy and welcome dose of reality.

Not that there aren't some whiz-bang battles and high-tech gadgets within. Moren drops hints along the way about the supe
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
As a first book, it's a very good effort. More has done a good job of establishing the universe he's working in, giving us just enough to whet our appetites without weighing us down with details. I could have wished for a little more world building in the details of Caledonia. At times it felt like the technology of the world was 21st century, not 26th, as far in time from us forward as Columbus is, backward.

As for the story itself, that's where it shines. Moren has a knack for snappy dialogue,
Once again, despite all the rave reviews for this "sci-fi" novel, I'm walking away. To me, this reads like the most typically mediocre spy thriller in the world, just in, every single bit of dialogue feels like the expected thing to say, and the characters all feel like total cardboard. I'm a third of the way through and there hasn't been a single unique or interesting situation, other than a wormhole shutting down and cutting a ship in half. That happens at the very beginning of th ...more
Mike Maurer
I had put this book on my list, as it seemed to combine spies and space opera. Plus it was a new author, to me, so something to try out. A friend of mine had read it and gave me the book. I wanted to like it, but could never really get into it.

The plot is basic and is told without serious twists. Two political entities at war, a special ops team, and a lost pilot that could save the galaxy. A super weapon that will change the tide of the war.

Here, the characters are flat. No one is really inte
Jeffrey Grant
This book was hard for me to stay with because it kept plucking at my suspension of disbelief, daring it to unravel.

About a third of the book feels like science fiction - spaceships, FTL travel in space, galactic superpowers competing with each other in morally dubious ways. But then we get to the planet where a lot of the plot takes place and suddenly all of that futurism disappears. Descriptions of buildings, jobs, transportation, and everything have no resemblance to anything sci-fi at all.
Rich Saskal
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a matter of public record - Dan Moren is a Star Wars fan.

So it's probably little surprise to see some 'Star Wars' echoes in his entertaining debut as a sci-fi novelist.

It's in the atmospherics -- the dusty backwater planet, an empire, rebels the frustrated kid who yearned to to escape it by becoming a space pilot. Not to draw the analogy too far -- this space opera is set in here in this galaxy, in our future, and there are no aliens.

It's an adventure, a race against time in the service of
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up because I'd read it was a character-driven space opera that didn't hammer you with kooky future-terms, ridiculous gadgets, and other cliché tropes. It lived up to the latter half of that billing and certainly the characters' relationships drove the story, but I wouldn't call it a space opera -- more of a spy thriller. I enjoyed the backwater Scots-Irish planet of Caledonia, the wormhole gates (huge Stargate fan here, which I realize is at odds with my first sentence) and the bro ...more
Daniel Tan
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Moren sets up a story that is not all about the lasers and more about the characters. There are a few holes that I would've enjoyed more fill-ups, but the premise and the story were great to read. It got me caught in the flow of the story and invested in the characters enough to want to know what happened to them.

I'd say that it wasn't always paced at the same rate, and slightly more rushed nearer to the end, but it was still a good enough pace to read and consume what was being given, especiall
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-scifi
This is kind of disappointing. Not bad, but disappointing.

I am not sure what I expected, except maybe more. The author tries to mix military scifi and espionage and ends up with a mixture that does nothing well. There is too little space action and the covert part is neither deep nor engaging enough to make me care. The characters do little to correct that, being more or less what you would expect in the genre (with one exception where the character is completely superfluous).
The plot is compete
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes space opera
Classic space opera - a rich universe with lots of backstory to explore, and engaging and detailed characters. A real page-turner...

The story tracks one Eli Brody, a native of the planet Caledonia who left seeking a better life. Well, that didn't work out so well, so now he's reluctantly headed back to Caledonia. He's reluctant because of his history there, but he's going because otherwise the nice man from Commonwealth Intelligence will get annoyed.

The story - which takes place over a three day
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Fun Read for Dan's First Fictional Outing

I've followed Dan in his tech journalism career for many years. I especially enjoy listening to him on podcasts, whether the techy kind or the geeky culture kind. He's got a great humor and wit. And that translates to his fiction. This was veritable Dan as I know him from listening to him. This adventure was a fun read and I think was a solid first publication. I did feel like some key pieces of the story were shallow. For instance, I felt like Eli's sist
Darren Rogers
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Caledonian Gambit is a very well written, well developed, and most importantly *fun* book. It is really hard to believe this is a first outing for the author - Gambit is way too funny, way too well written, and too smart to be a debut. Perhaps Dan is actually an author from another planet trapped here on earth due to a gate collapse?

I think the last time I enjoyed a cast of characters and a new world this much is when I first discovered Bujold or Scalzi - not that I’d directly compare the st
Tom Sands
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. For a first effort, it was really quite good. It was a fun storyline with nice twists. I am glad that he left it open for a potential series.

The only negatives for me were minor. Considering my lack of skills in English and Writing, I have no solid credibility to judge. I did feel that the author used words too often that seemed to be used just for their lack of common use. I am glad that I purchased the Kindle version as I use the word definition function mor
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For several years, my tastes in sci-fi have drifted to hard and gritty, mainly because I found traditional space opera had become extremely derivative and needlessly reliant on space magic to resolve the plot.

This novel reminded me that space opera can still be huge fun in the right hands. With a colorful cast of flawed (and interesting) characters, a plot that moves at a good clip, a clever mix of espionage and action, and a bone-dry sense of humor, I blew through the novel on one sitting.

Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Space opera at its best

John Campbell would have loved it and published it in Analog in a heartbeat. Keith Laumer would have written a Mecklenbur

John Campbell would have loved it and serialized it in Analog. Keith Laumer would have written a laudatory blurb for
the dust cover when it came out in hardcover. It's old-fashioned but only in the sense of having the old virtues of good story, entertaining characters, interesting world building and humor. The author admits to working on this book for eig
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I'm one of the few who don't know Dan, so I could read this book free of any prejudice and the complete lack of having to do someone a favour...

I haven't read any of the other reviews, so I don't know what they found so good here that a rating of more than four stars would be justified. For pretty much nothing in this novel really drew me in or was in any way special or exceptionally well in any sense. Parts I actually found rather boring. And the main protagonist I actually couldn't conne
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been yearning to read a good mix of science fiction and spycraft for quite a while now and I have to say that "The Caledonian Gambit" really hit that sweet spot beautifully. The writing was smooth, the pacing intense, the characters natural, and the twists entertaining. It was a hell of a lot of fun to read and I truly hope Dan Moren continues this as a series. I would gladly read more about Eli and Kovalik.

I also appreciated the Irish cultural backdrop to Caledonia. It made the fleshing
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Dan Moren is the author of the upcoming sci-fi spy novel The Bayern Agenda, due in March 2019 from Angry Robot. His first novel, the rollicking sci-fi adventure The Caledonian Gambit, was published by Talos Press in May 2017. His work has also appeared in The Boston Globe,, Yahoo Tech, The Magazine, Tom's Guide, TidBITS, Six Colors, and Macworld, where he formerly worked as a senior edi ...more