Without anything in particular to spend my credit on this month, I picked up the Audible copy of To Honor You Call Us: Man of War, Book 1 by H. Paul Honsinger.
I had passed this title over for a while because there is only so much arm-pumping in military fiction that I can handle. I am a huge fan of genuine military history (We Were Soldiers Once, and Young was only returned to the detachment library because I feared the colonel’s secretary more than life itself), and I love well-balanced military fiction that has human and accessible protagonists. I re-read the first ten Honor Harrington novels by David Weber and the Vatta’s War series by Elizabeth Moon pretty much yearly. (If you have not read those series, yet, I would recommend them highly.)
Honsinger’s work looked more like adolescent flexing in a mirror for my taste, too “balls and bayonets brigade” to borrow from Joss Whedon’s Firefly series. The prologue certainly had me rolling my eyes.
BUT, if one can wade through the ridiculous introduction, there is something worthwhile in this book. Honor Harrington is compared to Hornblower in space, then this is the Aubrey/Marturin series redone as a space opera. An idealistic ship’s doctor and an ambitious militarist captain have their fates thrown together on a tiny ship on the edge of a war for humanity’s existence against, sigh, mutant killer space rats.
The book continues to flow back and forth between the ridiculously overblown and the nicely nuanced. The captain’s task to simultaneously lead a solo scouting mission while rehabilitating a demoralized and under-performing crew has some nice moments. I enjoyed thoughts on morale and the interplay between the captain and the ship’s doctor. There was certainly a greater range of subplots than I hoped for.
As a freshman effort, this novel is a cut above average, if it does have some flaws. Its main characters are always the best and greatest, with no weakness or disability to them. The captain has seen more combat than any five other officers put together, to a staggering extreme. The ship’s doctor speaks every language and understands every culture, in addition to being a crack shot, master swordsman, natural diplomat, and yet somehow has to fulfill the ‘useful idiot’ role for explanations to the all-knowing all-experienced captain.
The novel’s strengths come in terms of a diverse story-line, consistent space mechanics, dramatic exaggeration, and decent space tactics.
If you have already read Vatta’s War and Honor Harrington, this is a decent fall-back while you wait for the next, hopefully faster-paced installment by Weber. If you haven’t, check out those better-written series and get to this for your next airplane ride.
Recommended with caveats.
Now for the medieval Christian take on the story:
There is an interesting flip on the Aubrey-Marturin series that Mr. Honsinger is clearly using as a reference in his own story (or he owes someone royalties). In Patrick O’Brian’s original series the ship’s well-educated doctor and sometimes spy is a naturalist, an evolutionist where Captain Jack Aubrey is a half-educated Christian and something of a bigot. This reflects the worldview of the dominant intelligentsia at the time of their writing. Mr. Honsinger follows its own iteration of modern political correctness, in that the captain is an evolutionist and functional atheist whose ignorance of life outside the military is matched by the Muslim super-scholar uber-doctor’s knowledge of everything else. The super-elite doctor and very-macho soldier routine is less refined in Honsinger’s novels (O’Brian gave his protagonists a shared love of and mastery of chamber music, for example which gets an homage reference to Gilbert and Sullivan but never plays any other role in their interactions) but it does reflect just as accurately the thinking accepted and pushed on the inside of the majority of western universities: Islam is to be publicly praised, honored, and respected. Everyone knows evolution is true. And Christianity has no place in society. The spirit of the age has changed but the submission to the zeitgeist remains from one series to the next.