cover image At Empire's Edge

At Empire's Edge

William C. Dietz, . . Ace, $24.95 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-441-01759-1

Prolific military SF author Dietz starts a duology with a testosterone-soaked tale of violent retribution. Jak Cato is a member of the Xeno Corps, a cadre of soldiers bio-engineered by the Uman Empire to deal with the shape-shifting Sagathi. A skirmish with the alien Vord forces Jak's ship down on Dantha, an impoverished former prison planet, and Jak gets drunk in a tavern and awakens to learn his entire unit has been massacred. Guilt-ridden and angry, the stubborn Xeno cop hunts the culprits with little concern for collateral damage. Dietz is enthusiastic but clumsy, scattering exclamation points like discarded bullet casings and relying on melodramatic villains. The setting is an unconvincing and unimaginative Rome-in-Space culture featuring a frankly disturbing repeated motif of the loving slave, and the story is too predictable for readers tired of space opera clichés. (Oct.)