We have a military science fiction column this week because David Weber and Chris Kennedy will both be guests at Honorcon (www.honorcon.org) this weekend. This is a regional military science fiction convention which has many events centered on Weber’s Honorverse. [Editor’s note: This year, HonorCon has expanded its programming to truly become a fully-fledged general military science fiction convention, with additional guests including Taylor Anderson (of the Destroyermen series), Marko Kloos, A.G. Riddle, David Drake, Tony Daniel, and more.]
Review of Call to Arms: Book 2 of Manticore Ascendant by David Weber, Timothy Zahn and Thomas Pope (Baen, October 6, 2015)
This is the story of the further adventures of Travis Long, who has now been through officer’s training and is a junior lieutenant posted to a recruiting station. His former shipmate Lisa Donnelly puts in an appearance as the owner of a dog which needs a sitter, and later in the book as Travis’ sometime dinner companion. They aren’t posted together, so their relationship continues to grow as the book continues.
People from outside the Manticore system come sniffing around trying to see if there is a wormhole in the system, but no one finds it in this volume. The locals haven’t figured out exactly what was going on, but they find the ship rather suspicious. The ship gathers enough data that “pirates” raid the system in order to take Manticore.
The Manticoran fleet of course isn’t taking that lying down so we have quite an epic-level battle between the navy plus the system defense boats against the invaders. We see quite a few ships die, and see the King and other members of the government discover that they have lost family members. It is an interesting time because many Manticoran leaders had been trying to get rid of the navy, saying it was no longer needed. Suddenly, it is the only thing standing between them and a bombardment from orbit by pirate ships. It will be interesting to see how that shifts the government’s priorities in the next volume, particularly when the wormhole junction is finally found.
Because this series is a prequel one to the Honor timeline books, it means that Your Humble Reviewers and most Honorverse readers know a great deal more about what is coming for the characters than is usual for a series. Weber and Zahn take advantage of this by giving little sneaks of who, what, and where will be important later.
This is a fast-moving story written more in Zahn’s style than Weber’s as far as ease of reading, length, and flow are concerned. Weber’s hand is definitely evident in the combat scenes, both at ship level and character level. The Honorverse novels are always a good read regardless of whomever else is writing with Weber, but we really enjoy these stories with a slightly lower tech level and a not-so-powerful navy. This series is a good entry point into the Honorverse, so if you read military or adventure science fiction you should give them a try!
Review of The Search for Gram: Book One of the Codex Regis by Chris Kennedy (Chris Kennedy Publishing, July 1, 2015)
So this military science fiction novel is the first in a new series by Chris Kennedy. He does of good job of making a fast-moving story and you can keep the different viewpoints straight. The setting is interesting although slightly strange because Earth jumped forward its tech level so fast that the culture and politics haven’t caught up. There is a reasonable explanation for this, but don’t expect any significant characters who aren’t straight white males or the alien equivalent. There are some young female aliens who do help the fellows out, but they aren’t developed much.
Calvin Hobbs is the main character and has seen adventures in previous volumes. He is a Lieutenant Commander so isn’t the ship’s Captain but he’s the one everyone including the aliens want around when they have a problem which requires an inventive military solution. He is sort of a Kirk type character, who gets away with not strictly following the rules because he always has success with his not by the book methods.
In this volume, an alien prince has been lost when the ship he commands disappeared in a section of space not known to contain hostiles. Calvin and his ship are sent to investigate. Don’t want to give away the action of the plot or too much about the interesting aliens, but the fighting and spaceship battles are well done and the alien cultures are interesting even though we don’t get to see much of any of them. Even after reading the book, it is not really clear who Gram is, although we assumed it was the alien prince’s name.
It is a well-written entertaining old school military science fiction story. Is a good read and would make an excellent present for a fellow reader, particularly since it can be difficult to sort through the self-published military SF to separate the good from the junk.