[Book Review] Treachery, kidnapping, and 24th century super-commandos

Book Review: The Ramal Extraction: Cutter’s Wars by Steve Perry

The Ramal Extraction: Cutter's WarsAfter marathoning through both of the Expendables, Lockout, and the latest Mission Impossible, this title was a perfect segue off-screen and into some book action. Science fiction, check. Fancy guns, check. Rugged guy on cover, looking coyly over his shoulder, check.

Colonel Cutter leads one of the best mercenary forces in the galaxy, men (and women, and aliens) for hire for the right price. Having just completed an easy mission, they’re hired for an extraction – the daughter of a powerful Rajah has been kidnapped by villains unknown. The team finds itself facing insurgents, assassins, a furious groom-to-be, a very short timeline, and no idea who had taken the girl.

Each member of the team has a special power – technical augmentations, long retractable claws, super-shooting skills…, and they know how to use ’em. Remember the scene in X-Men: Wolverine, when Wolverine and his team raid the diamond dealers and are all sorts of awesome?  That’s kinda this book, except add some Halo suits and an alien and a forest. The team runs around doing commando missions, dodging treachery, running into dead ends, and then regrouping to discuss and plan new missions.

But in the world of uberteams running around taking on badguys in firefights and using superspy technology, The Ramal Extraction falls somewhere near the middle; it doesn’t stand out in any particular way, and suffers from being the first of a series (or from weak structure? Take your pick). Active story-time is interrupted again and again so that the characters can sit down and tell their stories about this or that important point in their lives. It contrives to turbo-boost  ‘getting to know the characters’, which is a shame, because there are plenty of instances of good character-building within the story itself. Being inside K or Wink’s heads as they do their thing is a much smoother way of giving me a good sense of who they are.

Suspension of disbelief takes a few blows as the story goes on. I generally don’t mind faceless hordes of bad guys being killed off. But I struggle when random villains off themselves rather than be questioned – especially when they have no apparent stake in the whole plot and no reason to do so. It doesn’t help that there are several scenes when characters consciously make the decision to kill innocent bystander soldiers rather than simply knocking them out. The result is the same, and sure, war’s tough, but I lose sympathy points.

All in all, it’s on-the-ground military (mercenary?) science fiction. There’s action, sexual themes, and explosions. I love the dialogue – especially the banter between deadly Gunny and devious Gramps – and the action and fight scenes are a lot of fun. On the downside, contrived back-story development and missions that keep dead-ending got me nearly as frustrated as the put-upon mercenary team.

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