Friday, January 16, 2015

A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

 A Call to Duty takes a chronological leap backwards, to the time before the Star Kingdom of Manticore's wormhole junction was discovered, when it was still at peace with Haven, the Solarian League was far away, and the Andermani Empire mere rumbles of thunder on the horizon. It is more of a young adult novel than most in the Honorverse assortment, and has also taken a step back in the magnitude of the multi-POV Weber style, and a step forward in comprehensibility to one who is not steeped to geeky goodness in the lore of Manticore.

Like many a story of the same type, it follows the journey of Travis Uriah Long, a man on the cusp of adult life, directionless, who decides to join the Royal Manticoran Navy for structure and discipline. As you might imagine, he finds a surfeit of both in the rigors of boot camp and beyond. Long gains the nickname of "Stickler" for his obstinate obedience to rules, regulations and procedures, but his career in the Navy is destined to give him a far broader education in the reality of how things work when the battle plan meets the enemy.

There's still plenty of good political machinations, but we actually get introduced to each of the players in this new series, rather than having to consult a monstrous compendium like The Book of Steel to remember the particulars about them, so it seems far easier for me to follow, much like the first handful or so of the original Honor Harrington novels. One faction of Parliament wants to dismantle the Navy, now that they are at peace, so the money can be spent on education and job creation, of course, while the others are not so sanguine about the continued stability, and want to expand the fleet to meet future threats. The downsizers have the upper hand at the moment, so morale in the fleet is not great as maintenance is deferred, and corners are cut.

Young Long gets up to plenty of adventures here, from rescuing damsels in distress fighting space pirates. Hopefully Zahn and Weber can continue to keep it simple for his old easily confused readers, who simply enjoy a well-spun yarn.

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