This is the third collection of short stories written by multiple authors, with a title borrowed from spaghetti westerns in which Clint Eastwood starred when in his mid-thirties or so and taking place in the universe of the Four Horsemen. For those unfamiliar with it, the various stories take place during the 22sd century. Earth is part of the galaxy, a galaxy inhabited by multiple alien races, mostly of which are stronger, more deadly or technologically more advanced than Humans. These sell the only thing that is of interest to the alien races: their ability to fight as mercenaries and die for money, with the CASPers machines given them a chance against more powerful adversaries.
There are some sixteen short stories of varying size, mostly between a dozen and thirty pages each on multiple themes. Two of my favourites are the ones on Depiks – a race of feral cat-like aliens that specialise in contract assassinations. Another great story features a certain Zeke (Ezekiel Avander) who also figures in some of the Four Horsemen stories. In this collection, we see him during the earlier part of his career, when a slave of aliens biologists working for them in a secret laboratory somewhere in space.
A number of stories are about war, survival and death, grim last stands and fights against the odds which are sometimes won and sometimes not. This theme, well introduced by David Drake’s foreword, runs through the book. As usual with collections of short stories, there were some that I tended to prefer to others. I did not find any of them really weak and all were entertaining in various ways.
Four strong stars for another good collection of short stories.