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 budgetary 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.
Given the two authors of this book, David Weber and Timothy Zahn, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that this book is very well written. It is quite some time since I read a book by David Weber. I had gotten a bit tired of his gradually changed style which ended up in a lot of talk, talk and more talk in his books. Whether it is a balancing influence from Timothy Zahn or not, this book is much more balanced in that aspect than some of Weber’s other recent works in the Honorverse.
In this book Manticore is not the power it is in the Harrington books. Rather the inverse, it is a poor struggling nation running a fleet of second hand ships, most of them mothballed. In this pre-Harrington universe we get to follow Travis Long as he enlists in the navy and rises through boot camp and his first assignments. Travis is intelligent, brave but also a stickler for rules. Something which of course causes some friction during the journey. Naturally there are some bad guys thrown into the mix although in this book we are not even close to the clash of empires that we have come used to in Harrington’s time.
The book is, as I wrote above, very well written. Characters are well done, the plot is good and it is enjoyable to read about Travis and his adventures. Though I have to say that, when reading the first chapter at the beginning, when Travis is enlisting and we learn the circumstances around the events I was getting a wee bit worried. My was this guy stupid! Luckily both Travis and the book shaped up quite quickly after that.
The book is not really slow but I would not say that it is fast either. Personally I think it has about the right pace. During the course of the book Travis manages to get through boot camp and his first assignments which included thwarting a few bad guys plans. However, he is still a green young navy guy and I would say that this book was more or less used as a “stage setter” for the series. An impression that was enforced by the fact that the last couple of pages was used to set up a pretty big cliffhanger involving what I would suspect to be a well-known element from the Harrington books. One which would have a profound impact on the future of Manticore.
Now this is a good book but, for me, it was not a great book. The reason for this is the politics. In general I do not like prequel type of stories although that I could have lived with but something that irked me throughout the book was the political nonsense. When we are not reading about travis we are reading about dumbass political assholes who have nothing else on their agenda than to dismantle the navy and use their funds for shortsighted vote-buying. It is frustrating and infuriating. It is also reminds me of our current day dumbass politicians who frequently do just that, especially in my home country. I would say that this is the main reason why I am not giving this book a full set of stars.
It was a good read though and I am looking forward to the next instalment.