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Strength and Honor: A Novel of The U.S.S. Merrimack by R.M. Meluch
Review by Bill Lawhorn
DAW Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756405274
Date: 04 November 2008 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

This is the fourth book in the Tour of the Merrimack series. Peace is never easy. The Hive has been defeated and a new space order is planned. The Palatine Empire that had surrendered for its own survival now feels the need to exert its independence and dreams of ultimate domination. Caught in the midst of these plans is the USS Merrimack that had played a pivotal role in ending the hive threat. Captain Farragut must find a way to stop the plans of Romulus Magnus, and surviving would be good too.

In this future, there was a secret Roman empire that continued on after the downfall of the original. Once the technology was available, the best and brightest minds of earth left to become a part of an independent Rome. The new society was based on technology. Unfortunately the dependence on technology left them open to attack by the Hive that was able to control this technology. They surrendered and survived. After the destruction of the Hive, Romulus arranges for his father's death. The patterner Augustus, a cyborg, sworn to protect the legitimate emperor moves to find the slayer and exact retribution.

As the Earth and Palatine begin their war, the Hive rises from the dead and begins to reform and regain its powers. Augustus has the answer, but may not share it until it's too late. This new threat could destroy every living thing. Captain Farragut and the crew of the Merrimack are left to save everyone, if they can.

This was an odd book for me. It is the fourth in a series I had never heard of prior to reading this book. It was a little predictable, but definitely accessible to readers new to the series. The biggest problem in the book is the idea that a secret Roman society could have flourished, even found the United States, without ever coming into the view of the world. It took me a while to overlook this point. Ignoring that, it was interesting.

Ms. Meluch did a nice job describing the Palatine culture especially as it relates to maintaining long held beliefs and traditions. I especially appreciated that the Senate of Palatine wasn't perfect and reacted like many political bodies--self-serving. This is realistic.

This book isn't for everyone. The military in space adventure works for some people, but many don't enjoy military SF and should probably stay away. For those who do enjoy this genre, go ahead and enjoy. Readers may want to look up the earlier volumes prior to this one, but they can still enjoy it without the earlier books. I found this reminiscent of the Starship books by Michael Resnick. There is a strong captain on a powerful ship, but not the most powerful ship.

Our Readers Respond

From: Madeleine Yeh
    I liked this story, but then I had read the earlier books. This is a direct sequel to book #3, "The Sagittarius Command". Books #1 and #2 occur in an alternate timeline but with many of the same characters and same political situations.

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