Okay, I love Michael Z. Williamson's heroes. They're tough, they're flawed, and when they break stuff it stays broke. When I saw that the title of his latest was Better to Beg Forgiveness I figured I was in for a great ride.
I was right.
But before I gush: I don't like Kurt Miller's cover. I feel bad, because the artist in me knows he put a lot of time getting it to look just like he wanted it to. The art-critic in me is willing to concede that it's probably a style thing. I'm a fan of the old-school Science Fiction and Fantasy pulp covers. Give me a Whelan, a Frazetta, or a Vallejo cover and I'm happy. Sadly, this means that many of the current Baen covers don't work for me.
But I know better than to judge a book by its cover.
The story follows a team of contract bodyguards (read: mercenaries) whose job it is to protect the newly elected and unpopular president of some backwater world. As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that about the only people who want their client in good health are them and their client.
Mike's politics are a little more subtle in this book. We return to the universe of Freehold, but this book takes place well before the events in that one (anywhere from ten to a hundred years, if I'm any judge of these things.) Grainne appears in the story, but we're spared the tour of this utopian version of libertarian meritocracy.
The politics are only a little more subtle, however. If you look carefully at some of the characters in the background you'll find parodies of some prominent media figures as well as a few left-leaning US politicians. Still, the politics are believable. People and organizations are corrupted by power, and garden-variety stupid springs up everywhere.
I had a great time reading the book. The first half swung in and out of the action-and-peril sequences very naturally, but as the tension and intrigue built I found I was waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. The other shoe, it turns out, is a size 11 boot to the base of the spine. It's quite the kick in the pants. From there, the book is pretty much non-stop action all the way to the big finish. I stayed up too late reading, and had my dreams punctuated with small arms fire and the occasional bit of HE demolition work.