by H. Paul Honsinger
Genre: Sci Fi, Military, Space Opera
My Rating: 5.0 of 5.0
The Terran Union is engaged in a vast interstellar war against the Krag, ruthless aliens intent on exterminating humankind. In 2315, the wily Max Robichaux is given command of the USS Cumberland, a destroyer with state-of-the-art capabilities but a combat record so bad, she’s known as the “Cumberland Gap.”
Capt. Robichaux’s first mission: to take his warship to the Free Corridor, where the Krag have secretly been buying strategic materials, and to seize or destroy any ships carrying enemy cargo. Far from the fleet and under enforced radio silence, Max relies only on his determination and guile…and the support and friendship of his chief medical officer, the brilliant Dr. Sahin.
Because even as he deals with the ship’s onboard problems and the stress of carrying out her risky assignment, Max and the doctor discover that the Cumberland and her misfit crew are all that stands in the way of a deadly Krag attack that threatens to end the war—and humanity—once and for all.
A far-future story in the tradition of “ships of wood, men of iron” novels, To Honor You Call Us and the Man of War series combines the adventure of exploration, the excitement of war, and the dangers of the unknown through the eyes of a ship and her crew.
Max Robichaux is a young, bold officer who thinks fast on his feet and pushes the edge of authority. Fortunately for him and his crew mates, he has a lucky streak that more often than not helps pull his backside out of the fire. Some ‘by-the-book’ superiors might not appreciate Max’s ingenuity but in a war where human forces are dwindling, brave and creative Captains may be just what is needed. Max has been promoted to command his first ship for just these reasons.
The ship, the Cumberland, has developed a reputation of failure and the nickname of the Cumberland Gap. It will take strong leadership to get the demoralized crew to believe in themselves and their ship again. Knowing this, Max’s commander assigned a great group of sharp officers to help him turn the crew around. His XO, Garcia, is a bright, alert young man who quickly recognizes Max as a worthy leader. The new medical officer, Dr. Ibrahim (Bram) Sabin, is a brilliant physician who believes in the best care for each patient. He is an extraordinary man who knows at least five languages that could be very helpful on their mission. There are other officers, old and new, who are given the chance to improve their specialties under Max’s skillful direction and delegation. Weaknesses are uncovered in the crew along the journey and remedial action and training is a high priority as they prepare to face their enemy, the brutal Krag.
The ship’s mission is to move stealthily into neutral territories to find where the Krag have been illegally sneaking through cargoes of precious supplies. Although part of the task is intelligence gathering, Max is quick to take advantage of the opportunity to capture a few prizes. This is a big boost to the crew and one they are going to need when Max stumbles upon a treacherous enemy plot to annihilate another, neutral, species. The species doesn’t welcome any combat vessels into its borders and it is going to take every thing Max and Bram can think of to get into the space, save the planet and stay alive.
I loved the technical and tactical military details and elements of this story as well as the fast-paced, non-stop, breath-holding action. When there isn’t an active battle there are internal issues (i.e. crew lack of skills, sabotage and drug trafficking) to be addressed or character history blended in. The characters are well developed even at the secondary level. This became a team or family that I was rooting for and I empathized with the losses and joys of the crew.
I was sorry when the book came to an end and immediately bought the next book in the series so I could read it soon. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy strong military space opera.
I am glad I received this title at NetGalley. It is part of my NetGalley Challenge.