When a  group of men walked into Andre’s diner with guns blazing, he thought his time had come. He had no idea Chelsea’s ex-prostitute father would save the day. With Van Damme speed and Chuck Norris bravado, Dan dispatched the thugs, breaking necks and snapping bones. Then Dan did something that made Andre realize he is nothing he claimed to be. He started doing push-ups. Hundreds of them to burn off the activated combat neurostimulant flowing through his veins.

It turns out that “Dan” is actually Ken Chinran, The tactical team leader of the the squad responsible for millions of deaths on Earth during a galactic civil war years prior. After the victory he slipped out of the military with his daughter in tow to build a new, quiet life on the planet Grainne.

This is the beginning of the latest military science fiction story from Michael Z. Williamson. It is a taut adventure in the Freehold universe that is reminiscent of the lone-wolf cop movies of the late 70s  starring the likes of Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson. Williamson never lets up. The action is relentless and exciting, with deep characters and a strong (but standard) plot.

Ken, now going by Dan, is racked with guilt over the events of the war. It was his team that effectively destroyed Earth. Millions of lives lost in the event, billions in its aftermath. Even though it was war, and his job to win it, Dan can’t help thinking about the lives he destroyed. His superiors pushed buttons  to unleash an apocalypse, he had to go in and deal with the horrors of war firsthand.

Now, over a decade later,  the fight in the diner has brought Dan’s old boss to his doorstep with a new mission. One of his former teammates has gone rogue, going on a string of assassinations of political figures. Only one man can stop him, the man who trained him. They are practically the same person with one difference. Dan isn’t a sociopath. How do you stop a killer without a conscience? Armed with a blank check, expert tactical knowledge and enough firepower to take out a platoon, can he end his protégé’s reign of terror?

It’s a standard plot, like countless grim and gritty cop movies  of the 70s and 80s, no new ground is broken there. The thing that puts this book above other military sci-fi is the actual storytelling. Williamson is at the top of his game here. He doesn’t inundate the reader with overly-technical details about the type of weapon being used in a scene, bog down the pace with unnecessary cliches, or an ill-timed love-scene inserted at the behest of an editor concerned with showing  “character development.”  I cannot wait for another book in the Freehold universe!