The plot is mainly about Zak Cato a Xeno which is some kind of elite paramilitary police force of empaths. He is something of a misfit in his outfit because he drinks and fails to show the proper respect but he loses his whole team when an opportunistic planetary leader decides to liberate and use his shape shifting prisoner to assassinate a powerful imperial envoy. Zak is the only one that can stop him since he was away buying supplies when the raiders came. OK, he might have been drinking too.
Now he has to catch the shape shifter again and foil the conspiracy against the Empire that is brewing on the planet (Why do you think they have to kill a snoopy envoy for else?).
He sets himself against some avian barbarian clans and a planetary governor with a sinister plot but mostly against a shape shifter out to get him and any other humans he can get a bite off.
It is kind of a mix of military scifi, a lone star sheriff hunting his man and barbarian planet adventure and I can’t say that it is great literature, most of the characters are rather two dimensional but it is a fun read, good action with a little romance. It also has a nice humor that at times reminds me a little of Harry Harrison and the Stainless Steel Rat even if it is never that over the top ironic.
If you are down on your dose of military science fiction and want something new and maybe with a slightly different angle At Empire’s Edge might be the right book for you but don’t expect extensive world building or complex characters this is fun uncomplicated warrior action.
Title: At Empire’s Edge
Series: Zak Cato
Author: William C. Dietz
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Hard Cover: 320 pages
Publisher: Ace 2009
Copy: Bought by me from Amazon
In a far-distant future, the Uman Empire has spread to the stars and beyond, conquering and colonizing worlds, ruling with a benevolent-but iron-fist. The Pax Umana reigns, and all is well. But on one planet, the remnants of a violent, shape-shifting race called the Sagathis are confined, kept captive by xeno-cops, who have been bio-engineered to be able to see through their guises. Still, sometimes one manages to escape.
Zak Cato is a xeno-cop. He’s returning a fugitive Sagathi when things go horribly wrong. Cato- the only survivor after the rest of his men are slaughtered-must now figure out who betrayed them and bring the alien in, whatever the cost.