Shepherd, Joel 1974-

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Shepherd, Joel 1974-


Born 1974, in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. Education: Attended Curtin University.


Home—Australia. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, novelist, and short-story writer.


George Turner Prize shortlist for unpublished manuscript, 1998 and 1999, for manuscript of Crossover; Aurealis Award shortlist, 2001, for Crossover.


Sasha: A Trial of Blood and Steel, Hachette Livre (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2007.


Crossover, Pyr (Amherst, NY), 2006.

Breakaway, Pyr (Amherst, NY), 2007.

Killswitch, Pyr (Amherst, NY), 2007.


Australian novelist and short-story writer Joel Shepherd is the author of the "Cassandra Kresnov" series of futuristic adventure novels. Beginning with Crossover, the books concern the adventures of Cassandra (Sandy) Kresnov, a highly developed, artificial human being designed to be a lethally efficient and nearly unstoppable killer. In an interview on the Meme Therapy Web log, Shepherd described Kresnov as "the product of many hundreds of years of medical replacement technologies that we can see even today—people learning to make or grow spare body-parts in labs. As such, she's not a mechanical android in any sense, she's a genuine replica human, just made of different stuff, and with vastly enhanced capabilities." Though Kresnov is not human in the strictest sense, she is interested in those things that define humanity, such as the high concepts of art, the depth and breadth of literature, and insightful conversation. She is also keenly interested in human sex. As the story begins, Kresnov has defected from her position as a soldier in the League, a planetary governmental organization, after an attempt to send her and her team on a suicide mission. She takes on a new name and new identity and tries to build a normal life for herself in Tanusha, the vast capital city of the planet Callay. In Tanusha the League's adversaries, the Federation, are in power, but Kresnov cannot escape her former controllers even there. Defecting from the League is not easy, and her former superiors set out in earnest to find and recover her, leading to much conflict in which Kresnov's skills are fully tested. Throughout the story, Kresnov considers and defends her humanity, contrasting it with her hated past as a killing machine under someone else's control. Along the way, Shepherd provides plenty of fodder for the human-versus-artificial debate. "Crossover is thus a story about someone struggling to prove, against pretty much all odds, that despite not being human in basic ways, she is most assuredly human in other ways, where it matters. Defining that concept is a matter of far more than simple biology," commented Andi Schechter in January Magazine. Shepherd "grapples with some genuinely thought-provoking questions on the nature of humanity," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Library Journal reviewer Jackie Cassada called the book a "fast-paced story of intrigue and adventure set against galactic politics."

In the second Kresnov novel, Breakaway, conflict between the League and the Federation has escalated into all-out war over control of Callay. Kresnov finds herself involved deeply in the struggle, fearing that the League will again attempt to force her return. During an assassination attempt on the president of Callay, Kresnov reveals her lethal skills and status as an artificial person when she intervenes to save the president's life. Her synthetic status does not sit well with the Federation, which is opposed to biotechnology in general and to artificial persons in particular. Kresnov becomes a member of the Callayan security forces, where she develops a deep friendship with her team leader, Lieutenant Vanessa Rice. In the background, the Federation and the Tanushans become concerned that Kresnov will somehow be convinced to abandon their cause and switch sides, even though she has given them no reason to doubt her loyalty. Kresnov's ability to trust and depend on others is put to the test when she finds she must rely on Ari and Ayako, members of a covert operations team searching for the Tanushan underground. As the political machinations begin to heat up, including the possibility of Callay breaking away from the influence of the Federation, Kresnov refines her human emotions and characteristics through her friendship with Vanessa and realizes that her struggles have taken on a very personal aspect.

In Breakaway, Shepherd "continues to develop his ambitious future with considerable sociocultural and political astuteness," commented Cynthia Ward in Sci Fi Weekly. Beneath the veneer of far-future weaponry, unstoppable killers, and complex planetary politics lies a story concerning the "very real struggle about the nature of humanity and trust," commented another Publishers Weekly critic. Ward concluded that Kresnov is a "sympathetic character, and an intriguing new addition to SF's self-aware android tradition."



Library Journal, July 1, 2006, Jackie Cassada, review of Crossover, p. 71.

Publishers Weekly, June 12, 2006, review of Crossover, p. 35; February 26, 2007, review of Breakaway, p. 65.


Andromeda Spaceways, (August 4, 2007), Tehani Wessely, review of Sasha: A Trial of Blood and Steel.

BellaOnline, (August 4, 2007), Laura Lehman, review of Crossover.

Bookgasm, (August 4, 2007), Ryun Patterson, review of Crossover; Ryun Patterson, review of Breakaway.

Fantasy Book Critic Web log, (May 16, 2007), review of Breakaway.

January Magazine, (August, 2006), Andi Schechter, "The Genre of Big Ideas," review of Crossover.

Joel Shepherd Home Page, (August 4, 2007).

Meme Therapy Web log, (July 21, 2006), interview with Joel Shepherd.

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Web log, (September 22, 2006), interview with Joel Shepherd.

Pyr Web site, (August 4, 2007), biography of Joel Shepherd.

Sci Fi Weekly, (April 4, 2007), Cynthia Ward, review of Breakaway., (October 30, 2006), Rob Bedford, review of Crossover.