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Bones of Empire by William C. Dietz
Cover Artist: Don Sipley
Review by Mel Jacob
Ace Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441019229
Date: 05 October 2010 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Bones of Empire by William Dietz takes up where At Empire's Edge left off. Centurion Jak Cato of the Xeno Corps discovers Fiss Verafti, a shape-shifter has taken the Emperor Emor's place. With Vords poised to take over an Empire world, the false emperor is interested only in locating his lady love and willing to kill any who stand in his way. After negotiations with the Vord, the shape shifter as emperor kills the head of the Vord delegation and takes his place to escape to the planet where he suspects his love is hiding.

The Empire of Umans (short for humans) is loosely based on the Roman Empire complete with names, military structure, and slavery. The Xeno Corps, genetically engineered police officers with enhanced empathetic abilities, aids in stopping crime especially those committed by aliens. They can't read minds, but sense emotions. This ability enables Cato to recognize the alien impersonating the emperor is a shape shifter he had thought dead.

Collateral damage occurs with every battle with criminals and aliens. One criminal boss resembles Jabba the Hut. While Jak is the typical action adventure hero, he has a core of honor in his code. His one weakness is his slave Almay whom he loves, but he stops short of full commitment and has yet to free or marry her. He also finds a subordinate, Yar Shanni, attractive, but struggles against it even when he knows she shares the feeling too.

Once Verafti leaves with the Vords and the emperor's death is discovered, Jak is sent with a small squad to follow and capture or kill the alien and his girlfriend. The Vords are reluctant to allow the officers access, but once convinced of the menace they agree to help. Vords regard all Umans and most others as lower species and don't trust them. With effort and luck, Jak establishes a link with one Vord officer by helping to solve a murder aboard the transport ship. Matters once they arrive grow worse almost at once.

A prolific author, Dietz has written more than thirty novels and developed a following for those interested in space operas or action adventure science fiction. According to his website, a new, as yet untitled Mass Effect tie-in novel will be released September 27, 2011.

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