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WesternSFA
The Ramal Extraction
by Steve Perry
Ace, $7.99, 288pp
Release Date: December 24, 2012
Colonel “Rags” Cutter is the leader of an elite mercenary unit that traverses the galaxy on its assignments. His core team consists of expert markswoman Megan “Gunny” Sayeed, “Gramps” – the guy who manages their finances and has a nose for information, and possibly for Gunny as well; a ferocious alien called Kay, because her true name is impossible for humans to pronounce, even the ones with Scottish, German, or Yiddish backgrounds; former PsyOps officer Jo Sims; adrenaline junkie and sometime team physician Tomas Wink; and the androgyne Formentara, a genius with nano-based augmentation systems who keeps them on, if not beyond, the cutting edge of enhancement technology.

With one assignment completed, the unit gets a new mission: rescue the kidnapped daughter of a Rajah Ramal, one of several powerful rulers of a planet. As lead after lead turns into a dead end, with corpses marking the end of the trail, or into deadly traps for Cutter and his team, their failure may pave the way for planetary war. But what’s frustrating for Cutter and Co. makes for great reading, and they are smart enough to eventually see beyond the false lures and red herrings.

Each reader will find his or her own favorites in this character-rich book. There is a great scene where Gunny and Cutter are competing on the range with increasingly tough targets. My favorites tend to be the scenes from Kay’s perspective: she’s like a cross between Klingon, Vulcan, and Chanur.

The first Steve Perry story I ever read was “Into the Hot and Moist” and it was so good I memorized his name as one whose books would be worth buying. This first volume of a new series, to be designated Cutter’s Wars, is every bit as exciting, funny, and satisfying, and I am delighted that more will follow. Perry is great at characterizations, he can convey the soul and essence of a person so aptly that you feel as though you’ve known them forever, and there’s still room to be surprised by revelations. Perry employs a story-within-story device, wonderfully reminiscent of The Tales of 1001 Nights, to provide back stories, as several of the main characters recount, or remember, their first kills.

If you already know how a writer good Perry is, you’ll pounce on this one avidly. If you are thinking of giving this one a try as a first encounter, go for it! ~~ Chris R. Paige

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