Friday, October 24, 2014

A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

A Call to Duty
* * *
Growing up, Travis Uriah Long yearned for order and discipline in his life . . . the two things his neglectful mother couldn't or wouldn't provide. So when Travis enlisted in the Royal Manticoran Navy, he thought he'd finally found the structure he'd always wanted so desperately.

But life in the RMN isn't exactly what he expected. Boot camp is rough and frustrating; his first ship assignment lax and disorderly; and with the Star Kingdom of Manticore still recovering from a devastating plague, the Navy is possibly on the edge of extinction.

The Star Kingdom is a minor nation among the worlds of the Diaspora, its closest neighbors weeks or months away, with little in the way of resources. With only modest interstellar trade, no foreign contacts to speak of, a plague-ravaged economy to rebuild, and no enemies looming at the hyper limit, there are factions in Parliament who want nothing more than to scrap the Navy and shift its resources and manpower elsewhere.

But those factions are mistaken. The universe is not a safe place.

Travis Long is about to find that out.


XO checking in again.  I am really spoiled by Nat when it comes to books.  She sees all these great sites, all these upcoming books, and when she sees one that I might like, she gently, kindly, looks at me, and in a sweet, sultry voice says “READ THIS IN 4 DAYS AND THEN REVIEW IT OR I WILL KILL YOU IN YOUR SLEEP!”.  I apologize, that’s a slight exaggeration.  She gave me 7 days. 

David Weber is back, and this time, he partners with Timothy Zahn, to take his fans of the Honorverse back to a time before the technological and military superiority of Manticore and her allies.  A Call to Duty, Manticore Ascendant Book 1, takes us back to a time when the Plague is still a recent memory, and the entire Manticoran Navy consists of 8 ships.  Far, far away are the days of Manticoran Fleets protecting the shipping lanes of the Silesian Confederacy from pirates, from going toe to toe with Thomas Theisman and Shannon Foraker and the battle fleets of Haven, and from defending your home world and its allies from attacks from Mesa.  What’s here now is a shrinking Navy with disappearing parts and budgets, a confused, squabbling and self-important political machine (OK, sorry, that won’t change anytime in their future), and a King who is tired keeping his fledgling world together.  And Travis Long, a young kid who has to make a decision one fateful night to be the getaway driver for his ‘friends’ or join the Navy.  Time will only tell if he made the right decision, and right now, Travis is not sure.

At its heart, this is a space pirate tale, with the scrappy newcomers fighting against a trained, smart, and well-funded pirate organization.  The pirates aren’t trying to rob a ship, they’re trying to steal one.  Well, two if they can get away with it.  Travis might be great at thinking outside the box, but it’s going to take everyone to get them out of this one, and if they’re all very VERY lucky, they’ll even be alive to see if it worked.    At the same time, there’s intrigue and struggles near the throne, and the King is tired, and Prince Edward has a feeling that he’s about to get handed the keys to the Kingdom.  The only question is will the Kingdom survive until he can get the Navy back in shape, and ready to face future threats.  And in the fine tradition of the House of Winton, the Prince will be trying to figure everything out while serving in that same Navy he’s trying to save. 

Sometimes Book 1 of a series can be a little dry, setting up the people, the places, the tech, and the society.  The story is fast paced, then slows, then speeds up again.  It is a bit of a roller coaster, but you know quickly who to love and who to hate (HA HA, no, it’s not going to be that easy, sorry, I was just seeing if you’d fall for it), and the political intrigue is present, as always in the Honorverse.  Weber and Zahn are a Sci-Fi geeks marriage made in heaven, and the book has both their fingerprints all over it.  I’ve missed Zahn since I first read his Star Wars trilogy, and I’ve been so hooked on Weber, I am almost always reading one, and rarely for the first time.  I look forward to seeing where the series goes, and hopefully this will not be the last collaboration between these two science fiction icons.   A good read, and more importantly, a set-up to a hopefully GREAT series.


the XO

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