Friday, August 31, 2018

Dragon Award Finalist, Best Mil Sci Fi: A Call To Vengeance

The nice picture link, for those without ad blocker...

...and the bare-bones text link for ad blocker users: A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Thomas Pope.

Preliminaries and disclaimers. This is the 18th AND LAST book review I'll be doing for the finalists for the 2018 Dragon Award; this is also the 5th (and last) of the books in the 'Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel' category, out of the six finalists.
A quick recap: For the 'Best Science Fiction Novel' category, I was able to get 4 out of 6 finalists.
'Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)' category, 5 of 6.
'Best Alternate History Novel' category, 4 of 6.
No conclusions should be drawn about the 6 novels I couldn't obtain. I contacted all of the authors, with a single exception, but it's likely that my signal got lost in all the noise that the Dragon Award and good book sales generates. Therefore, if you have the chance to read one of the books I didn't review, take it. It's probably a good book. 
The only author I did NOT attempt to contact was Brandon Sanderson, who wrote 'Oathbringer;' and the reason I didn't make the attempt is because that book was described as massive and 'epic,' and I just couldn't see giving a disproportionate amount of time reading even a GREAT book, when I was under a deadline. 
As a reminder, I STARTED this series as soon as word of the Finalists came to me in the form of a ballot, which was August 8. So, I had 23 days in which to get these read and reviewed. I originally had planned to include the  'Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel' category as well, which would have meant a total of 30 possibilities, but I quickly discovered that NONE of the books in that category were available to me through my usual sources, and decided not to try to make contact with any of those authors/publishers. 
There were 8 books in the categories I DID select which required me to contact authors and request a review copy, and 3 of those complied. Baen Books provided me with 4 books; the remainder I got through Kindle Unlimited.

A brief and inadequate review. Now, only PART of the reason for the shortcomings of this review is due to my mental state at 9 PM on Friday night after a three week reading & reviewing marathon. The other part is that this book, like many others on the list, is a single installment in a series. However, unlike the other finalists, the three volume series is only a small part of the overall body of work in the Honor Harrington/Manticore universe. It's a bit of a numbing experience to try to do justice to a single patch in the quilt.
That isn't meant to be a criticism of the book. It's well-written, good characters, good story; all the things you want to find when you pick up a space opera, with a sufficient quantity of exploding spaceships. The ONLY way in which the book suffers from being a part of such an extensive library is that the cast of characters is....massive. I include in 'characters' not only people, but factions, governments, and entire systems. They are so developed in the OTHER parts of the body of work, that they have to be included to some extent in any installment that isn't specifically limited to a specific individual or incident; for example, the treecat-human relationship. That can be, and was, executed with very little reference to the outside world. In a novel of this type, though, those well-developed entities must appear, and it can be overwhelming, unless you have made it a point to read everything in this universe.

And speaking of: Lt. Travis Long is a young man of proficient skills, as well as the ability to have flashes of insight that can make the difference in a battle. He does NOT have the ability to keep his mouth shut when people with power and influence are being stupid, and that gets him into trouble. Fortunately for him, his talents have been noticed by people who are a bit above the ordinary political games, and he is given the opportunity to develop some additional sets of skills (as in: espionage).

Elizabeth had the misfortune to be born a royal, but because she had an older brother who bore children, she was able to do things other than be an aristocrat. That didn't last. It's rather amazing just how far the reach of her commitments to her people goes.

And meanwhile, everyone in the entire planetary system has been placed on notice that their lives and security are nothing more than dust in the wind, when repeated attacks by unknown forces bring every defect in their naval defenses to light, in the worst way possible.

Conclusions and comments. I had a VERY strange experience as I started to read this work: I felt like I was sinking into a relaxing pool of water, and letting all my weary muscles get a rest. I really wasn't expecting that; yes, I have greatly enjoyed stories in this universe before, but I wouldn't claim to be a devotee. However, I just KNEW I was going to enjoy reading the book, that it wasn't in ANY sense going to be a struggle. Thus, I can highly recommend that you read this, BUT:
BUT, you really shouldn't make this the FIRST book you read. Certainly, you should read the first two entries in this mini-series; to get the full impact, read a LOT more of the installments in the Manticore story.
And that raises the question, for me at least, of whether or not this book, ON ITS' OWN MERITS, deserves selection as the BEST military sci-fi novel. I think that's going to have to be a personal decision, since I'm not aware of any criteria that recommend OR exclude it from consideration.

Final thought: Earlier in this series, I mentioned Rob Howell in the context of providing hypertext links to the wiki supporting his work. Once again, I really have occasion to recommend that approach. It takes a while to be able to learn who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are, and I'm NOT referring to various political parties within a government; I'm talking about the guys driving the ships. While that would have to be managed carefully to avoid spoilers, it seems to me that providing links to an Order of Battle would be relatively easy. So, when I say to myself, "Who in the heck is THIS guy?" I can click on his name, and find out. It really doesn't even have to be as complex and as elegant as what Rob is doing; if you can insert footnotes, why CAN'T you provide a scorecard? 
Eh. Maybe it's not a big deal. If it is, it will happen. 

Peace be on your household.

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