I love Timothy Zahn, in fact. he’s probably my favorite still-living author, I’ve read everything he’s ever written and anything he does is an instant buy for me. So when the first book in a series he’s co-writing with David Weber, an offshoot of the long running Honor Harrington book series, I knew I had to read it. I was somewhat familiar with the Honor Harrington series, having read at least the first couple, plus some of the spin-offs, but I wasn’t really a big fan, especially of more recent books which always struck me as absurdly detailed, to the point of being pretty anal. So I went into this book with a bit of apprehension, would it be the Tim Zahn that I loved or the very heavy and overly-complicated later Harrington books?
Let’s find out as I take a look at A Call to Duty.
Travis Long is a young man obsessed with order but finds it lacking in everything that he does. That pushes him into joining the Royal Manticoran Navy where he hopes that rigid structure will be the order of the day. He is unfortunately disappointed but grows to love the military life and goes on many adventures, where his superiors find that he’s gifted with a creative mind and often finds solutions outside of the box. But when he and his ship, the Guardian, find themselves in the midst of a pirate heist, can Travis find a way to stop the pirates before his tiny star nation is forced into war with the strongest military force around?
Now I’ll be honest, this is a bit more like the early Harrington novels than the later ones, which is a good thing, but it just doesn’t feel much like Zahn. It’s also not action packed or exceptionally plotted, it feels pretty average as books go and that’s a problem. I also haven’t picked up an HH novel in a long time and that was the biggest issue I think I had, they expect you to be familiar with the politics and the technology because they never bother explaining anything at all. Because its been so long, I had no idea what they were talking about for a while and that is generally bad form for any novel. At the very least, you need to remind people, especially for the first book in a series, exactly what’s going on, how things work, etc. There was also a lot of political intrigue that meant very little to me until I started to remember a bit of it, and there’s a lot of set-up for later books in the series and I found myself not really caring about that, I just wanted something exciting to happen, which never really did until the very end of the book. The second book in this series is supposed to come out in October and I’m really not sure if I’ll pick it up.
This isn’t a bad book, it just isn’t a great book. It’s just… there. There is a lot that just didn’t matter, like Travis and his constant looking for a girlfriend and realizing that nobody liked him. It had no impact on the overall story, it was just… there. Likewise, Travis’ constant need for order and discipline, it didn’t really have any impact on his character, it was just… there.
I need more than just being there to make me want to come back.