cover image FOR THOSE WHO FELL


William C. Dietz, . . Ace, $24.95 (410pp) ISBN 978-0-441-01198-8

Careful plotting and realistically messy detail help lift Dietz's sixth military SF novel (after 2003's For More Than Glory ) about the Legion of the Damned, an army of biobod humans, aliens and brain boxes installed in mechanical bodies, which defends the Confederacy of Sentient Beings against any threat. The present enemy, the insectoid Ramanthians, needs more planets to accommodate their queen's billions of eggs. When the Confederacy learns that a Ramanthian research outpost has developed a communications device that could win the war, an expedition sets out to capture the new technology. In particular, a young first lieutenant must lead his troops through the perils of jungle, desert and ambush by psychotic renegades. Meanwhile, a young woman diplomat discovers that one of the Confederacy's alien races is secretly aiding the Ramanthians. Characters attempt to gather information, make political alliances and maneuver skillfully, but often their efforts degenerate into groping, murderous frenzy. Dietz expertly jumps from one theater of combat to another, one side to another, to show the opponents planning but then improvising as plans go awry. Even if the novel's action sometimes is as manipulative as a WWF Smackdown, it still gives a genuine adrenaline rush. Agent, Richard Curtis. (Oct. 5)