Pretty disjointed in terms of story, but the characters seem to
behave as usual. But I after two stories like this, I don't know
how these guys can be called the best mercenary group in the galaxy.
The first question that I want answered is why everybody counts
six members of Mag Force 7 when I count seven. When Tess is discussing
her plan, she notes that Darlene must be the seventh member, and that she's
not there -only six of them. Later, when Xris counts bodies by the
infrared heat they project, he counts six, including himself. Let's
see: Xris, Jamil, Tycho, Doc Quong, Harry, Raoul and Little One.
That makes seven.
Much of the story was disjointed, and many of the ways they come
across information seemed too convenient. Some of the coincidences
were made up for when Tess explained that she knew about him, and smuggled
him outside the army base on purpose, and staged the raid on purpose, but
it was too late, I think, for such a twist. And having Little One
and Raoul tell Xris in the middle of battle that Tess was a triple agent
seemed shoe-horned in at the last minute.
The job looked like easy money to Xris, which, of course, meant
that it wasn't. But there was no way for Xris to know that.
He is to steal a robot from a planetary government for a museum curator.
Only this is not a museum curator. He is a man who is making a large
profit for selling technological gadgets to the Corasians, the main bad
guys in this universe. These are molten blobs who have no engineering
skill whatsoever, so they steal technology from humans, and are addicted
to human flesh. I'm not too fond of them as bad guys, but as long
as they don't make too long an appearance (as in King's
Sacrifice), I'm fine with them appearing in a story.
Xris figures that the job will be easy, so he and Jamil (an ex-Navy
officer) pretend to be Army officers giving a speech to a far-away base
on the planet of Pandor (great name for a planet, as far as I'm concerned).
Everything is going extremely well, until it is just about time to get
to the robot. Jamil gets called away, as a real Army officer, which
is suspicious. He is being taken to the Navy's flagship, where he
meets the Lord Admiral Dixter, who essentially blackmails him into seeing
the mission through, and planting a bomb in it as well. The robot
is a trap, to catch the man who is selling secrets to the Corasians.
And just in case it fails, the bomb will make sure the Corasians don't
get the robot.
Meanwhile, Tess, another Army officer, has nearly seduced Xris,
smuggles him off the base to go to a bar, which gets raided. I knew
immediately after hearing Tess talk about the place always getting raided,
that a raid would happen, and sure enough, it did. Bad foreshadowing,
I think. Even if it was staged. Xris escapes, and gets to the
site where the robot crashed its ship, centuries before. After a
few minutes of fearing that he would be discovered, he escapes with the
robot, gets it into its crate, and goes back to the base.
Because Jamil has been called away, Xris has to give the speech.
The speech is meant to be funny, I think, but it ends up being uncomfortable.
Thankfully, the authors don't focus too long on it, as the rest of the
Mag Force 7 team shows up. This makes Tess suspicious; she thinks
they want to double-cross her and take the robot for themselves.
So she pulls a gun on them, and forces them to explain themselves.
The reason the team has been assembled is because Raoul and the
Little One figure out that the theft is not what it seems, and that Xris
would be in great danger. They and Darlene (kidnapped or rescued
by Xris in the last book, depending on the point of view) went to Raoul's
home planet of Adonia for an annual celebration, which consists of absolute
hedonism. Raoul has to be the funniest person in the whole book,
and the authors know how to write him. He is concerned only with
fashion and beauty, and is constantly on a drug-induced high. Whenever
he makes a comment on something, you can be sure that it is from a point
of view completely different from what anybody else would say. And
the way he frets over his upcoming party was handled quite well.
Just about every line he speaks had me laughing. At the party, Raoul
is trying to outdo his neighbour, and he does, when Darlene is nearly killed.
Raoul gives her a death-imitating drug to throw off the potential assassins,
and one of the party-goers says to the neighbour that nobody ever died
at his party!
Darlene is a target based on what happened in the last book.
The Hung are a group of terrorists that Darlene, when she was still a man,
Dalin Rowan, sent to prison. I always thought that the name of the
third book, Hung Out, was strange, until I realized that the book would
be about the Hung. After reviving Darlene and killing her potential
assassins, Raoul sends her on an Adonian pleasure cruise, where her cabin
is destroyed, and she is nearly killed. She gets arrested for sabotaging
the cruise liner, and is put under 24 hour a day security -which means
that the Hung will not get a shot at her again. This whole part of
the book was pretty much wasted, except as what I see as setup for the
Unfortunately for Xris, for whom everything is going wrong, a
civilian shows up with the receiver unit that controls the robot.
The robot escapes, kidnaps the civilian for some reason that I cannot fathom,
except perhaps to gain language experience, and goes off to resume its
previous mission. It used to lay hyperspace lanes. And suddenly
Xris sees what a hot item this robot is. But instead of laying lanes,
it begins destroying them, because it does not get confirmation from its
boss, who died centuries ago. The civilian proves to be the key to
getting a hold of the robot again, and Xris gets blackmailed again by Tess
into bringing the robot to its original purchaser, who will sell it to
The ending is supposed to be a big battle to escape the Corasians,
and is fairly well done. However, Raoul gets hit on the head and
gets amnesia, to be made into more comic relief, and Tycho is killed!
Tycho seemed always wasted to me anyway, except when stealing the exterminator's
ship in Knights of the Black Earth.
He could change his skin colour! And he was rarely, if ever, used.
He also had the best line, since his translator was always malfunctioning:
"All for one, and damn the torpedoes!" When they do escape, because
of the Little One's revelation about Tess, and because Xris decides to
trust her one more time, the mood is grim, but not as grim as I thought
it would be with the loss of a major crew member. Someone actually
makes a joke about it!
Another thing I did not like was the use of the present tense.
The story would be going along, all in the third person, past tense, when
suddenly the authors would decide to explain something, and they would
use the present tense to do it, as if we were in the story's timeframe.
The book was enjoyable, with lots of humour, people put completely
out of their element, and with things going nowhere near as they were expected
to go. I don't mind the language they use, but there seemed to be
a lot more swearing here than in the other books. Unfortunately,
this book seemed more disjointed then the last one, too. It kept
switching back to the for-now nonsense plot with Darlene, or the civilian's
point of view. At least we got to know the fate of the robot.
When the civilian escaped the Corasians, he brought the robot back to his
"museum", but when the police and media were swarming over his house, he
decided to use the Navy's bomb, after all. There were too many contrived
parts, and I wonder if Xris and his company ever get any business that
is not connected to the royal family.
Still, the book is easily recommended, as the writing is excellent
(though not top-notch), the adventure is engaging, and the humour is great.