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by David Drake

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Drake returns with great success to the pattern of his best military sf novels. After a near-suicidal operation, an elite company of recon troops has been "redlined" --declared pyschologically unfit. A complex and somewhat improbable experiment is mounted to save them: they will escort a column of civilians across an intensely hostile world to a final confrontation at an alien biological warfare center. This scenario proves the foundation of an excellent book, full of Drake's usual superb action scenes and ingenious weapons and menaces. Drake also does considerably better by his characters, both civil and military (including the women): even one of his stock-in-trade personae, the guilt-obsessed trooper, takes on new life under the name of Caius Blohm. This is, far and away, the prolific Drake's best book since The Sharp End (1993). Roland Green



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