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Imperial Bounty
William C. Dietz
Ace Books, 278 pages

A review by Leon Olszewski

Originally published in 1988, Imperial Bounty is one of a series of novels taking place in the universe first described in War World (republished as Galactic Bounty). These are the stories of Sam McCade, "the best bounty hunter in the galaxy."

The book starts out on Sam's home world, Alice. An iceworld on the frontier, Alice is the home to a particularly savage beast called the icecat. Sam answers a distress call, and volunteers to kill an icecat for a fellow colonist. A more cautious person might have waited for more people to show up, but then what sort of story would that be!

After the icecat is dispatched (as you knew it would be), Sam meets an old "friend," Rear Admiral Swanson-Pierce, who asks him to find someone -- the emperor. The old emperor had died in a hunting accident, but not before naming his son, Alexander, as his heir. Alexander had been a playboy, but had disappeared ten years previously. The other contender for the crown is his sister, Claudia, who had worked her way up through the Imperial Navy.

If Prince Alexander cannot be found within three months, Claudia will assume the crown. Once she were emperor, she would escalate the conflict with the Il Ronn.

If Princess Claudia took over, she might destroy the delicate balance of power preventing war between the human and Il Ronn empires. For a number of reasons humans and Il Ronn were natural enemies. Strangely enough, their mutual hostility stemmed more from similarities than differences. Both races were ardently expansionist, and as their respective empires grew in size, the once thick band of frontier worlds separating them grew constantly thinner.
Since Sam foresees the alternative as billions of people dying, some of whom live on Alice, he agrees. In addition to the three month time limit, Claudia has many friends within the Navy who will make sure the prince is not found. To further hedge her bets, the princess also hires the Assassin's Guild to kill McCade.

Sam and his compatriots head to Earth, where he is invited by the Princess to a modern gladiatorial contest. When he refuses her offer to hire him to kill the prince, she brings the assassins down upon him. From there it is off to a gambling asteroid, following the playboy prince.

Imperial Bounty will be enjoyed by fans of William C. Dietz, as well as those who like the stories of Steve Perry or Mike Resnick. This is an action-adventure tale, fast-paced with surprises and humor. It is formulaic in that you know the goods guys will win in the end. Those who are expecting deep philosophy or meaning will be disappointed.

I have not read any of the other stories in the series, but was able to follow the plot with no problem. As with many series, each story can stand on its own. However, it would be best to read them in order.

Copyright © 1997 by Leon Olszewski

Leon Olszewski has read science fiction and fantasy for most of his life. He works at Spyglass, Inc. as their Manager of Network Services.

Imperial Bounty
William C. Dietz
William C. Dietz started his science fiction career with War World in 1984. The acclaimed Legions of the Damned was published in 1993. His latest novel, Where the Ships Die, came out in 1996. He is currently working on a trilogy of novella-length graphic story albums in a joint publishing venture between Dark Horse Comics, Bantam Publishing, and LucasArts. The storyline is based on the Dark Forces and Jedi Knight CD-ROM games from LucasArts.

ISFDB Bibliography
A Conversation with William C. Dietz
Short Bio
Ace Books - PB Plug
Dark Forces
Jedi Knight

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