Mack Maloney,
Starhawk: The Fourth Empire
(Ace, 2002)

Starhawk: The Fourth Empire is the third book by Mack Maloney in the Starhawk series. The main character, Hawk Hunter, is back for more adventures in this intergalactic story. For those of you unfamiliar with Maloney, he is a prolific writer who has penned many novels over the last decade. Hawk Hunter has starred in at least 16 Wingman novels, which take place after a nuclear war in the not too distant future. In the Starhawk series, Hunter finds himself far in the future (sometime around the year 7200 A.D.) doing what he does best -- kicking bad guy ass and taking names.

For those of you totally new to the character, think of Tom Cruise in Top Gun, only in a F-16 instead of a F-14. Also, drop all the character flaws and note that Hunter is the best, period! If stories about an individual like this would interest you, then you have a lot of reading to catch up with. If you are also a science fiction fan, then you have even more books to add to your list since Maloney has started the Starhawk series. And if Maloney follows a similar path as he did with Wingman, then there will be at least a dozen more books to follow the one this review is about.

The Fourth Empire starts out on Xronis Trey, the last planet around the last star in the second spiral of the Milky Way. The remains of a once sprawling military complex -- now manned by a small mercenary force -- is invaded by Hunter and his allies. They are looking for clues as to why the people of Earth were held captive in a galactic prison for generations. (For more details on how they escaped, read the first two books in the series). The clues ultimately found point to the Fourth Empire.

The road to revenge starts with Hunter and his army invading the middle reaches of the two-arm, as the second spiral is called. The Empire's response starts a series of military engagements that demonstrate Maloney's ability to write battle scenes that are hard to put down. Just like in the Wingman series, the action is fast-paced and while the explosions keep coming, Hunter manages to survive what would kill your average soldier.

My favorite section of the book is when Maloney describes the history of the First and Second Empires in graphic detail. The reason for the population of Earth's imprisonment is explained as well as the connection of the first two empires to the fourth. There is even a hint of things to come in future novels as we find that the rulers of these empires may have been manipulated by non-human entities.

I like the way Mack Maloney writes. Hawk Hunter is totally unbelievable, and his capabilities make him more than super-human. But isn't that the way action heroes are supposed to be? Maloney has a knack for taking his readers on a rollercoaster ride of action. Futuristic technology is intriguingly explained although some holes are left for the reader to fill in. In short, these books are fun. While you could probably get away with reading Starhawk: The Fourth Empire by itself, I would recommend you start with the first book ... in the Wingman series.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 28 September 2002

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