by C.J. Ryan
Review by Paul Haggerty
Spectra Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0553587765
Date: 26 July, 2005 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Gloria VanDeen is a Level 13 operative, normally the post of a nameless drone in the vast interstellar mechanism. But Gloria is a bit different from the others. True; she's stunningly beautiful. But that isn't unusual in a society that can sculpt DNA at will. She has no problem displaying her body to best effect (in fact she spends most of the book with her clothes dialed down to 90% transparency). Of course in a world where casual nudity is commonplace I had a bit of a problem understanding why flashing curvy body parts would be terribly effective. Her greatest claim to uniqueness, and one which she considers a curse, is the fact that she's the ex-wife of the emperor (although he wasn't emperor when she dumped him).
Still, Level 13 bureaucrats are a dime a dozen, and when she's offered the chance to personally investigate an alien uprising on one of the planets under her jurisdiction, she jumps at the chance. As uprisings go it's pretty small scale, just a few locals who have gotten their hands on antique rifles and shot up a few of the human colonists. She figures it will be a simple job of sail out, spend a couple of days looking around, and then come home and report.
But things aren't what they appear to be and before long Gloria finds herself stuck in a web of murder, terrorism, religious fanatics, corporate greed, governmental conspiracies, genocide, insurrection, invasion, television news frenzies, and of course stupidity (both human and otherwise). Add in the arrival of a company of imperial marines under the orders of the planetary governor, and Gloria is going to have to become far more than a Dextra drone (and dial down her clothes a few more percentage points) if she and her comrades are going to free the enslaved, stop the oppressors, save the innocent from mass slaughter, and then manage to get themselves off the planet alive.
I recommend Dexta with a few caveats. Gloria's personal effectiveness is just a little too pat, but she's the star of the series and as such, the fickle finger of fate tends to be a bit kinder to her. The double dealing, backstabbing, and corrupt government and corporate officials is old hat, but it's still fun to try and guess who's going to betray whom next. As a first novel, Dexta shows a good imagination and a fairly smooth style over all.