Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Ramal Extraction - Steve Perry


The Ramal Extraction
Cutter’s Wars, Book 1
Steve Perry
Ace
 
Military SciFi
 
Once part of the Galactic Union Army, Colonel Cutter now runs his own for-profit group.  Some might call them mercenaries; others know that you get what you pay for, and with Cutter and his group, you get the best, without a lot of red tape.  On the upside, Cutter gets to pick and choose his jobs, making sure that the ‘bad guys’ are really bad, and that the client actually pays.  On the downside, they’re not nearly as well funded as a regular army team, so they sometimes have to get creative.
 
It sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale: the daughter of the Rajah of New Mumbai has been kidnapped just before her wedding to the son of a neighboring rajah.  Rajah Ramal, the girl’s father, just wants his daughter back.  If Cutter can eliminate the kidnappers, all the better.  The girl’s fiancé is ready to go to war with the leader of the city-state he suspects of taking her.  The first order of business is gathering intel on the location situation.  Each member of Cutter’s team has his/her/hir own methods in the field.  It’s what makes them the best.
 
Since this is the first installment in a new series, there’s some groundwork to be laid, and the author has chosen a fascinating way to do it.  During the op, there’s unavoidable downtime.  During the downtime, each member takes a turn telling a ‘war story.’  These stories give insight into the characters and the surroundings.  It’s the late 24th century, Earth is hardly alone, and humans are not the only sentient species out there, so there’s a lot of ground to cover.  The personal stories give glimpses into the book’s future-history.
 
Another great decision (and one I always applaud) is the use of the Cast Of Characters at the front of the book.  There’s a whole team in place when the op – and the book – begins, so it’s quite handy to be able to refer to this to keep everyone straight.  The members are varied and well-characterized, even at the outset.  One is a non-human, giving the reader a sort of outside look at things.  Another is a human androgyne, and everyone uses the pronouns ‘zhe’ and ‘zir’ as a matter of course.  It seems like a small detail, but it goes a long way in immersing the reader immediately in the fictional universe.

I’ve always felt that a lot of scifi readers skip over military scifi because they feel they need to know about weapons or technology to read it.  Those readers are missing some great series.  I’m not up on weapons or military strategies, but the author here, like the best military scifi writers, writes in a way that makes it easy for readers like me to understand.  If you’ve been avoiding military scifi, I’d highly recommend giving this one a try.  It’s highly character-driven, it’s the first in a series, and the pace is very fast.  If you’re already on the military scifi train, you can’t go wrong here.
 
Rating: 8
January 2013
ISBN# 978-0-425-25662-6 (paperback)

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