Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book Review: A Call to Arms by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, & Thomas Pope

A Call to Arms
Author: David Weber, Timothy Zahn, Thomas Pope
Series: Manticore Ascendant (Book 2)
Publication: Baen (October 6, 2015)

Description: Lieutenant Travis Long of the Royal Manticoran Navy is the sort of person who likes an orderly universe. One where people follow the rules.

The good news is that Travis is one of those rare people who may like rules but has a talent for thinking outside them when everything starts coming apart. That talent has stood him—and the Star Kingdom—in good stead in the past, and it’s one reason he’s now a “mustang,” an ex-enlisted man who’s been given a commission as a King’s officer.

The bad news is that two of the best ways of making enemies ever invented are insisting on enforcing the rules . . . and thinking outside them when other people don’t. Travis learned that lesson the hard way as a young volunteer in basic training, and he knows that if he could just keep his head down, turn a blind eye to violations of the rules, and avoid stepping on senior officers’ toes, he’d do just fine. But the one rule Travis Long absolutely can’t break is the one that says an officer in the Royal Navy does his duty, whatever the consequences.

At the moment, there are powerful forces in the young Star Kingdom of Manticore’s Parliament which don’t think they need him. For that matter, they’re pretty sure they don’t need the Royal Manticoran Navy, either. After all, what does a sleepy little single-system star nation on the outer edge of the explored galaxy need with a navy?

Unhappily for them, the edge of the explored galaxy can be a far more dangerous place than they think it is. They’re about to find out why they need the Navy . . . and how very, very fortunate they are that Travis Long is in it.

My Thoughts: A CALL TO ARMS is the second book in the Manticore Ascendant trilogy. Its main viewpoint character is Travis Uriah Long who is serving in the Royal Manticoran Navy. Travis is a rule follower and a stickler for doing the right thing. Writing up a fellow officer for infractions puts him on the radar of a very powerful Admiral who is subtly and not-so-subtly hampering his career.

Of course, despite being a rule follower, Travis has a remarkable talent for coming up with out of the box solutions to problems when the sh*t hits the fan. This becomes an essential skill in this episode. Manticore, after a hundred years of peace, has become the target of an organization who wants to conquer it and take over its valuable wormhole.

The story takes place over six years. As is usual in a Weber book, many plot threads intertwine. One of them tells the story of a spy named Llyn who is gradually assembling the forces that will lead to the takeover of Manticore by his employers. I liked the way that various members of the RMN get hints of what Llyn is doing but don't have enough information to put all the pieces together.

One other plot thread has to do with political infighting on Manticore. Strong factions led the Lord Breakwater, Chancellor of the Exchequer, don't see the need for a Navy and are constantly trying to gut it and transfer assets and personnel to the Manticore Patrol and Rescue Service which has smaller, unarmed ships and has as its mission close-in protection for the planet. Since MPARS is under Breakwater's command, any strengthening increases his influence and power. For some reason, Travis's half-brother Baron Winterfall is a strong supporter of Breakwater.

I like the way Travis changes over the six years of the story and the way he gains supporters of his own among the part of the RMN who value competence more than nepotism. He doesn't play politics at all well which doesn't really change from the beginning to the end of the story.

The main action in this book is the attempt by armed mercenaries hired by Llyn to take over the planet. A hundred years of peace is shattered when the invading force appears on Manticoran Space where they will be opposed by the RMN which is under-staffed, under-supplied and determined to save their home planet.

Fans space operas will enjoy this intriguing series which is a prequel series to the Honor Harrington series.

Favorite Quote:
Osterman had a high regard for officers who actually tried to do their jobs rather than letting things slide. But there was a balance required, and Long tended to be as subtle as a hammer when it came to accomplishing that. He seemed more tone deaf than most where other human beings were involved.
Long was terrific at reading the lines of manuals and regs and orders.

Now, he needed to learn how to read between them.
I bought this one Sept. 12, 2015. You can buy your copy here.

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