The Man Who Never Missed
By Steve Perry
This is an entry in the field of the “self-made man fixes the galaxy” stories, aka “rags to riches”. I do like this one more than usual, though, as it fits more into the former category than the latter. The underlying concept is great, the action is well written and intense, the main characters’ feats are impressive, and the plot is very well structured.
Typically, these stories have two main issues for me:
- The lack of plausibility in the protagonist’s complete lack of failure in climbing the ladder.
- The sheer infeasibility of the plot’s basic premise of one person controlling an entire city/continent/planet/galaxy, often proceeding in that order.
While the first problem is present, Perry structures the plot to minimize these issues. The character’s prolonged reflectance on his plans does much to help minimize this issue. Secondly, while the “upwardly mobile” theme of this type of story does appeal to me as an American, for much of the story Emilie Khadaji engages in sideways mobility rather than upward mobility, building his own skills rather than an empire. Additionally, his goals are not so grandiose, and thus are automatically more plausible.
I found the plot very well structured in how it provided an intense and intriguing opening that hooked me, then pulled back to explain the genesis of the conflict slowly, giving me time to speculate on the conclusion, before returning to the conflict. If you are sick and tired of the Heroes’ Journey archetype, you might find it not interesting, but I found it quite well done.
The secondary characters were all fairly static, but in this instance it is well suited to the story, given its use of the Hero’s Journey archetype. Some warning, there is one character in particular (an “exotic”, a woman-species genetically engineered for prostitution) which some may find problematic or degrading, but to me the story seems to avoid glorifying that, focusing as much on her viewpoint as on how others perceive her.
One thing I definitely enjoyed was the story’s focus on contrasting an overall life plan vs. proceeding with the daily grind. There were moments that captured those “wait, it’s been how many years that I’ve been here doing this same thing?” epiphanies.
This book was published in 1985 by Ace Books, although it looks like I have a reprint by Penguin Books. It is apparently the first book in the Matador series, which I am excited to continue reading further.
COVER ART REVIEW: This is a pretty awesome cover that meshes very well with the story. I love the title font, and the colors all work very well together. Emilie Khadaji seems a bit tall, but that is a minor nitpick.