Book Review: A Call to Arms by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

A Call to Arms by David Weber and Timothy Zahn
A Call to Arms by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

While A Call to Duty was something of an introduction to a time before the Star Kingdom of Manticore was a major power, A Call To Arms takes the time to show the reader just how messed up things are.  Politicians spend more time trying to manipulate the system for their own game than they do considering the consequences, pirates and outside influences see Manticore as vulnerable and weak, and even the colonists of Manticore seem to have a low opinion of what they might accomplish.  In all, it sets up a number of nasty repercussions as all of these factors come due.

Travis Uriah Long, the main character from the last book, along with a number of new and old characters, finds himself at the center of those repercussions.  David Weber and Timothy Zahn do an excellent job of weaving several character arcs and stories, some that end with victory, some with barest survival… and a few in tragic death.  While I enjoyed A Call to Duty, I loved reading A Call To Arms.

Overall, the story itself doesn’t explore any new themes to those familiar with either author’s works.  Duty, courage, standing up for what is right, and with a good amount of self-sacrifice thrown in.  Yet where this book really shines is how it approaches these themes with fresh eyes, exploring them from the perspective of someone who doesn’t seem to be cut from the same hero material as Honor Harrington.  Travis is a young man who is just discovering who he is, which makes his efforts and sacrifices all the more impressive.  The Star Kingdom of Manticore, too, is a new nation, just getting their feet under them and developing the first processes that will make it the mighty power later on in the Honorverse.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it and the first book of the series to all fans of military science fiction and space opera.  An excellent book, well worth the read.

Here is my review of the first book, A Call to Duty.

From multiple New York Times best selling author David Weber and #1 New York Times best selling author Timothy Zahn. NEW ENTRY IN BEST-SELLING SERIES. Book #2 in the Manticore Ascendant series, set in David Weber’s Honorverse.

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

Unfortunately, he lives in the real universe.

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.

You can get it from Amazon here.

Book Review: A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn
A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

I first read David Weber and Timothy Zahn’s A Call to Duty last year.  I’ve long been a fan of both authors and I purchased the eARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from Baen’s eBooks without hesitation.

I’ll say right off that the book is every bit as fantastic as I had hoped.  The characters are fantastic, the setting is great, and the story is very engaging.  I particularly love seeing the great Star Kingdom of Manitcore in its infancy, watching the growing pains as it develops, and seeing it evolve.

The main character, Travis Uriah Long, has his flaws.  He’s got a painfully narrow focus and an inability to keep quiet when he sees something as being wrong… no matter how much trouble it gets him into, along with a social awkwardness that only gradually begins to fade.  To make matters worse, his half-brother dabbles in politics and since Travis is in the military and his brother is in league with the politician swinging against the military, things get a little difficult for poor Travis.

The book comes with all the exploding spaceship goodness that you can expect from a Baen read, along with the above mentioned fantastic characterization and gripping story.  Even though we know where the Star Kingdom will eventually end up, there’s enough tension because we have no idea what will happen to our characters in the process.  While our intrepid hero might well make it through the series, there are no guarantees.

All in all, if you are a fan of anything Weber or Zahn, this book, and the series it begins, is definitely worth a read.  You can find it on Amazon here.

NEW SERIES FROM NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHORS. Book #1 in Manticore Ascendant, a new series set in David Weber’s best-selling Honorverse, from multiple New York Times best seller David Weber and #1 New York Times best-selling author Timothy Zahn. FIRST TIME IN PAPERBACK.

Growing up, Travis Uriah Long yearned for order in his life . . . some 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.

War Never Changes

“Although a soldier by profession, I have never advocated war except as a means of peace. So seek peace, but prepare for war, because war, war never changes. War is like winter, and winter is coming.”

–Ulysses S. Grant

This quote is one I’ve seen chopped, abused, misused, and misquoted quite a few times.  Most often, of late, I’ve seen the first sentence used in relation to current events… missing entirely the meaning of the full statement.  I’ve seen it in video games, heard it in speeches, read it in books.  It is a quote that speaks to anyone who has ever served in combat, because we understand it at our souls.

Why does this come up now, of all times?  Because in times like these, when terrorists attack innocent people and we, in turn, bomb the places where they have support, it is something to remember.  Humanity will never truly be without war, because we will always have differences and disagreements.

Conflict is wired into us, just as firmly as the tribalism that causes us to identify into groups of “us” and “them.”  While diplomacy and discussion are methods to bring peace, they rarely bring any satisfaction or long-term resolution when between social groups.  The human brain is wired for conflict, to settle issues in the most basic fashion: I win, you lose.

What happens in war, at least modern war, is that the conflict is such that neither side wishes to surrender until defeat is proven, until a side is forced to admit their defeat.  This was the paradigm for World War II.  The Allies continued the war until the Germans and Japanese forces were defeated, until they surrendered and afterwards their nations were occupied and restructured by the victors.

Yet the price of such a war is catastrophically high.  Millions die.  Not just soldiers, but civilians.  Cities were bombed, civilian populations were targeted, and the societies that suffered such casualties rejected war, empirically, in order to prevent its future outbreak.

What they did, what they hoped to do, was to contain human nature, to tame it, to pacify the beast with law and diplomacy.  Yet this can only work until some people feel that their grievances are such that the law and diplomacy will not suffice.  When the animal parts of their brain tells them that they are right and everyone else is wrong… and the best way to prove that is to do violence on them until they surrender.

When individuals do this, it is murder or assault.  When a society, or even just a  large minority of a society does this, it is war.  Make no mistake, we are at war.  When a societal band declares that they will harm you until you do what they want, they have declared war in the most basic way possible.  This conflict is one based upon economic, societal, and lastly religious reasons.  This is not the time for diplomacy, for discussion.  Logic and empathy both have their places, but only when it comes to moderating our response.

When someone attacks you, you don’t make apologies for them, you don’t discuss why they are called to violence or what harms you have done them.  You hurt them back.  You hurt them until they stop hurting you.  The same goes for nations and societies.

The people who attacked in Paris are the same people who have attacked in Bengazi, they are the same people who have attacked on 9/11/2001.  They are the same people who bombed the USS Cole and the Marine Barracks in Beirut.  They are the products of a radicalized version of their religion, one which promotes violence, victim-hood, and which feeds off of provocations.  Their stated intent is to draw the West into returning their attacks, to then mobilize more of their society to support them.

We have tried for years to prevent a full-scale war.  We have targeted terrorists, we have moderated our responses.  As a result, we have emboldened those who think such restraint is a sign of weakness.  They don’t understand our desire to hold back the full strength of our response.  In our position, they would wipe us out (or try, because in truth extermination of a people is far harder than they realize).

We have come to the point where these two world-views can no longer coexist.  When a society does not restrain its members, when a people encourage their children to kill ours, then we have come to a point where we are left with no recourse.  Conflict must have resolution.  Restraint, taken too far, is just a suicide pact.  Diplomacy will falter when one side does not bargain in good faith.

“Although a soldier by profession, I have never advocated war except as a means of peace. So seek peace, but prepare for war, because war, war never changes. War is like winter, and winter is coming.”

Read it again: War’s purpose is to settle a conflict.  To end a difference, to use force upon those who will accept no other bargaining point.  Because there will always be those to whom violence is the first choice.  There will always be those who must be stopped, despite the costs.  Seek peace, seek diplomacy, but never forget that war will come and we must always be prepared.  Prepared to fight for what we believe in, to protect our families and our way of life.

War has come.  Winter is upon us.

Book Review: Her Brother’s Keeper

Her Brother's Keeper by Mike Kupari
Her Brother’s Keeper by Mike Kupari

I’ll preface this by saying that I read the eARC version of Her Brother’s Keeper and I did that several months ago when it was first available.

Her Brother’s Keeper is a solid space opera novel with definite elements of Military Science Fiction.  The characterization is solid and the story is engaging and exciting.

Mike Kupari has woven a tale whose characters have influences in Homer’s Odysseus and Horatio Hornblower and with a story that is at times as dark as David Drake’s works.

All in all, it is a solid and engaging read.  I will say that some of the side adventures were more interesting to me than the main story, but that’s more a matter of personal preference.  My main complaint would be that certain characters (who I won’t name for obvious reasons), basically had “red shirt” written in their description.  It wasn’t that they were bad characters, but compared to the description of other, more central characters it was the equivalent of “oh, and there’s Dave, don’t worry about him, he’s going to die.”

All in all, the characters were interesting, the adventure was solid and the characters who survive all have interesting growth.  A good read for those of you looking for a new author and I’ll be reading the future books.

DEBUT SOLO NOVEL FROM THE CO-AUTHOR OF DEAD SIX. Air Force weapons expert Mike Kupari, co-author of Dead Six and Swords of Exodus, offers up a science fiction adventure. When privateer Captain Catherine Blackwood is enlisted to rescue her brother from a treacherous warlord, she finds herself on her most dangerous mission yet.

It’s been years since Catherine Blackwood left the stodgy, repressive colony world of Avalon. Now the captain of the privateer vessel Andromeda, she is the master of her own destiny. But Catherine soon finds herself back on Avalon after receiving a plea for help from a most unlikely source: her estranged father, esteemed Avalon Council member Augustus Blackwood.

It seems Catherine’s brother, the heir to the Blackwood aristocracy, has gone off in search of treasure on the failed, chaotic world of Zanzibar. But Cecil Blackwood’s plans have gone very, very wrong, and he has been taken hostage and held for ransom by a fearsome local warlord. Augustus, knowing his daughter is the only one who can be trusted to return his son safely, swallows his pride and hires Catherine to bring her brother home.

Catherine takes the job—but it won’t be easy. Just getting to Zanzibar proves treacherous. And once she arrives, things only get worse. If she is to save her brother, Catherine Blackwood must face down danger at every turn and uncover a mystery four million years in the making.

You can get it from Amazon here

National Write a Novel Month 2015

tumblr_mvlcokDhGQ1qc0c3bo1_500It’s National Write A Novel Month (here in the US, anyway).  What does that mean to me?  Well, I’m trying to write a novel anyway, but now I have a support group for the month to help keep me on track.  What does that mean to you?  Well, a lot of people are writing.   A really lot of people.  In fact, people I never even knew were interested in writing are trying to write novels.

And that’s a good thing.   Writing a novel is hard.  Trust me, I write
faster than almost anyone else I know, and it is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, every time I do it.  It is a massive investment in brainpower, willpower, time, and your emotions.

Writing a novel can change you… and that kind of change is a good thing.  You learn a lot about yourself, like whether you really want to be an author or if you just like the idea.   Even if you don’t finish, you learn about yourself and if you do… well, writing a novel is also addictive.  You’re creating an entire world and (hopefully) getting other people to be caught up in that world.

Should the only reason you write a novel be that it is November and thus, NaNoWriMo?  Absolutely not.  If you buckle down and write, it should be for a host of reasons including the fact that you have a great story to tell.  But it is nice to have a support group.

Kal’s November 2015 Forecast

November is here, which means 2015 is rapidly coming to a close.  Looking back so far, I’ve had four books published this year, I’ve finished an additional novel, and I hope to have two more finished and sent off to my beta readers by the end of the year.

Most recently, Henchman Press just released my book, Odin’s Eye, the sequel to Fenris Unchained.  What excited me about that novel was trying to one-up myself.  Fenris Unchained is a novel full of twists and turns, a spy-thriller set in the far future.  Odin’s Eye takes that basis and goes the route of a high-tech heist, as the characters must steal a sophisticated computer algorithm from a high security facility on a corporate-owned planet.  Think Ocean’s Eleven (the newer one) set in space with mercenaries, cyborgs, and genetically modified super soldiers.

For this month, I’m trying to close out The Fate of the Tyrant and I’m starting to spin up on Renegades: Out of the Cold.  My goal is to finish the next Renegades book by mid-December and to move on to other works.

In other news, I’ve got a day job now and I’ll soon be relocating to Denver.  While Colorado Springs has been home for me for the past three years, I’m excited to give Denver a try.  Plus, as a bonus, it’s still Colorado, my favorite state.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and take care!