A Call to Arms (Manticore Ascendant)
by David Weber, Timothy Zahn with Thomas Pope
Cover Artist: David Mattingly
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476780856
Date: 06 October 2015 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Years have passed since Lieutenant Travis Long first came to the attention of the leadership of the Navy. His orderly view of the world holds him back, but his ability to see far beyond the normal still provides him opportunities. He has finished his training and is ready to head back to space after reconnecting with Lieutenant Commander Lisa Donnelly.
Getting into space isn't always simple. The Manticoran Navy is not yet the Navy of the future. It is underfunded and the manufacturing base that allowed Honor Harrington to fight much larger empires is just beginning to develop. This means that every operational ship is under-supplied. The one thing that adds opportunity is the push to man the ships that are available. But there is competition with the Manticoran Patrol and Rescue Service (MPRS) for resources and ships.
The major competition between services is exacerbated by the political factions in the Manticoran Parliament. Breakwater is a proponent of MPRS as the service falls under his control. He wants to expand his influence and the only way to do that is to steal it from the Navy. His task is made easier by the lack of results from the pirate hunt that started after Secour.
Even in the Navy, Travis faces factional issues. His brother Lord Winterfell is part of Breakwater's faction. He can never receive the credit he earns because his glory can be reflected upon his brother. He also struggles with people who break the rules or don't do their jobs well. This can be a good thing, until the person is politically connected or the son of leadership.
All of this is going on as the Axelrod Corporation continues to check Manticore for the presence of a wormhole junction. The results will lead to Axelrod hiring mercenaries to attack the Star Kingdom so that Axelrod can control the wormhole.
This is the second book in the Manticore Ascendant prequel series. As such it isn't the best starting point. Readers do not need to read the numerous books in the mainline Honor Harrington series. The series is worth reading as it shows that overwhelming force is not the only path to victory.
I really like Travis Long as a character. He is imperfect in his dedication to following the rules. But he doesn't limit himself when the rules don't apply. He is a great representative of Manticore, young with a lot of untapped potential.
The limits on the pre-wormhole junction society are deep, but the same types of political intrigue and positioning from Honor Harrington's time are developing. The factions and power grabs are no different than the ones seen around our present world. There are definitive statements related to the size and scope of the military as compared to social needs. This type of political statement goes back to the very foundations of Science Fiction but is very relevant to our modern world.