At Empire's Edge

At Empire's Edge - William C. Dietz "At Empire's Edge" might start off as a standard sci-fi novel, but the emergence of themes political, territorial, and the characterization that develops throughout make this a very well-rounded novel in overall scopes. It surprised me, because it took quite some time for the stage to be set with respect to the setting and the unfolding conflicts, but once it did, the story and characters drew me in, and didn't let go until the final scenes of the work.Jak Cato, a Xeno Corps officer, is the centerpiece of the novel as the story has him bringing in, and guarding over, a dangerous shapeshifting criminal named Verafti, of the Sagathi race. Things go horribly wrong as another alien race, the Vord, attack Cato's ship, forcing the crew to land to make repairs. The crew find themselves in Dantha, a planet with limited resources to provide them with the repairs they need because of the greedy ruler Nalomy. Nalomy realizes the benefit of having a dangerous criminal in her territory, and sends men to ambush Cato's troops in order to recruit the Sagathi to act as her own assassin.Cato is the only one who survives the ambush (as he's off getting drunk versus getting supplies for his team - he has character flaws in the beginning, so he starts as a character that some might not identify with initially), but as he hears and witnesses the aftermath of the ambush - he vows to bring justice for his team's brutal demise.What happens after that drives the novel from there on out - as Cato lands smack in a political crossfire between corruptive practices by the government and citizen unrest. Granted, there are a lot of players in this conflict, and the novel takes time to sift through the perspectives of the people witnessing the unfolding of events, from military officers to a simple slave girl, to Cato and even the parties that he comes to meet, but it invites the reader in when it hits its stride with the characters and events, after Cato tries to find out everything behind the attack on his team, and finding the Sagathi criminal. That said, there were some characteristic flaws in the novel - it does take on quite a few cliches to start, and it does take its time developing the settings and the political tete-a-tetes that are going on, so much that there are slower points the reader may have to slog through to get to the better strides. I don't like the subjectification of women in this novel as depicted in spurts, but at the same time I realize that's part of the world in which this novel exists, and it can get rather dark at times - mentioning instances of abuse, rape, and murder. I didn't expect the ending. Don't get me wrong - I liked the ending, but it was more or less something that you'd have to take in to decide whether it suits you or not. It ties in the character relationships well, but at the same time, leaves you with one really surprising revelation.All in all, I did enjoy "At Empire's Edge." It may not be a novel that suits everyone's tastes, but if you're into sci-fi stories with adventure, political intrigue, some hints of romance, and interesting characters and motifs, it's one to look into.Overall score: 3.5/5