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on December 26, 2012
As an ex-submariner and a lifelong fan of Heinlein, Asimov, and Doc Smith, I find it difficult to actively dislike a story that focused on a naval space vessel and the men crewing it. Then again, it's fairly easy for me to dismiss a story out of hand when it is grossly inaccurate, or uses poorly drawn military caricatures, when describing the challenges of shipboard life on a vessel surrounded by a hostile atmosphere, and to whom Stealth is Life.

These gents did it right; I got a warm, fuzzy feeling as soon as they introduced the COB. The only caricature is the hostile alien force, and I thought that eventually their motivations were explained well enough, at least for the first novel of a series, to make them believable. Many of the elements in play here could have been off-putting had they been handled poorly: Max's "cajun-ness", the extra-extra-ordinary competence and compatibility of the command team, the many throwback references to traditions born in the age of sail and salt-water navy (and Star Trek) when some of them seemed almost prohibitively dated. But I believe they were all handled with an exceptional amount of humanity and humor, which prevented things that could have been cliche from distracting from the main points, and in no way prevented me from thoroughly enjoying the progression of the Captain and crew of the Cumberland.

If any of the previous reviews mentions a story or author you're keen on (Heinlein, O'Brien, Foster, Horatio Hornblower), I believe you'll have a good time here. Can't wait for the sequel, and I'm hunting for the paperback right now so I can pass a copy around to friends. Highly recommended.
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on November 18, 2012
A thoroughly enjoyable space opera with overtones of Age of Sail fiction set in a desperate war against the Krug.

Our main protagonist, Lieut. (soon to be Lieutenant Commander after the first few pages) M. Robichaux is given his first command, a stealth destroyer and pretty much given free license to engage in enemy commerce raiding in neutral territory. How he does this and the obstacles he overcomes keeps the pages turning rapidly and certainly left me avid for a sequel. The short but sharp descriptions of the workings of a space age warship are particularly entertaining. There is also great scope in expanding the intriguing alien encounters.

The authors include a series of acknowledgements at the end of the book and not surprisingly, they wrote that this story was directly inspired by Patrick O'Brian; anyone familiar with O'Brian's work will see the similarities immediately although personally I found Robichaux to be a little cleverer than Aubrey. I did find one or two other hints there as well, with touches of Forrester and Lambdin. Also I am not sure if the name Robichaux is a nod to James Lee Burke.

All things being equal, Book II is being planned for January 2013. In fact, I hope that the authors enjoy writing this series to such an extent that it will run to show the development of the two likeable main protagonists from their first ship to much greater achievements and commands.
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on March 3, 2013
I enjoyed this book greatly, and found it immensely readable. It's rare that I can like a book for the sake of the prose and the overall storyline together, yet this book succeeded in both criteria, which made it a winner for me.

The authors clearly display a masterful grasp of naval awareness and detail, as well as an excellent systematic and logical approach to all things space-faring, at least, so far as I can tell. Certainly, if there is any element of bluff there, it is stronger than I can pierce. (Note I am not a specialist reader of space opera / space military fiction, but I couldn't fault it.) My desire for hard science fiction was entirely satisfied.

Indeed, I knew I was reading something with a high respect for veracity when I first read the description of the Cumberland's layout (particularly the position of CIC - so obvious when mentioned, yet I had never considered it. It's a good, gentle dig at Star Trek.)

I was also impressed by the successful collaboration of two authors, particularly for a first novel. Indeed, if they wrote any of the book portions separately and combined them later, I could not tell that it was so. There seemed to be one distinct voice for the authors, and any differences between them did not make it into the book.

However, as it stands, I cannot give it above a three star rating. The great number of positives are balanced out by a significant number of negatives, which I explain below, hopefully in a helpful manner without any desire to deride the novel. Please note that I am also an indie sci-fi novelist (see here:Splice Children - Book One), so I am writing this review from the position of both a reader and an author. Here we go...

Major issues:

- The book is EXTREMELY sentimental and nostalgic (particularly regarding the navy in general), to the point that I feel it lost a great degree of objectivity. This would be more acceptable if the main viewpoint was 1st person, or a carefully controlled limited 3rd viewpoint that was more strict to a given character or group or characters. However, given the blended-omniscient-limited 3rd person viewpoint employed throughout the book, the sentiment in the narrative often comes through as seeming to be direct from the authors themselves, thus making it feel like they are imposing their "emotional will" on me (sounds harsh, but it's so).

- In addition to the above, the problem with the slightly inconsistent viewpoint is resultant author visibility, i.e. the apparent author sentiment and switch to a more omniscient voice makes the authors themselves suddenly noticeable, thus damaging the illusion of the book in what is otherwise mostly effective limited 3rd.

- Finally in regard to viewpoint, I feel that more simple line breaks or other such reader cues could be employed for changes between character viewpoint, which is standard fare for limited 3rd shifts. Such changes tend to happen in this book without much warning, which can be a little jarring.

- There are far, far too many exposition dumps. Yes, the information needs to be there, but much of it could be trimmed, and what remains would need to be more carefully integrated with better justifications for its incidental inclusion. There are too many "As you know..." type conversations.

- I just didn't find the small arms weapons sufficiently believable. The use of simple kinetic weapons (meaning, pistols, sawn-off shotguns and cutlasses!) is an extremely bold move, but again requires more justification. As for the fact that swords are used in hand-to-hand combat whilst boarding or being boarded, (since using bullets in such confined spaces surrounded by things that go "boom" is unwise), I ask myself, don't they have anti-personnel energy weapons by the 2300s? Or even a different TYPE of sword? Or a different type of GUN?

- There are a lot of historical references made by Captain Robichaux and some of the more erudite characters in the book. However, the vast majority of the references are from recent history (and a great many of them from the 20th century), with barely any from fictional post-2013 "future" history. I find it hard to fathom that so little of historical note has eventuated in the 300+ years between now and then.

Minor issues:

- I noticed 10-20 typographic errors in my casual reading, mostly omitted words or punctuation, but not exclusively. There are also some inconsistencies of editing, such as a midshipman with the name of "Shepherd" which name changes to "Shepard" on the next page. There are some others too. Needs a good proofreader.

- I believe there is some confusion with the use of future dates; maybe it's just me, but sometimes the authors seemed to refer to the 24th century as the story's present time (with the current date of 2315), yet on occasion I noticed the 22nd century mentioned as what seemed to be the present time (with 2114 used a couple of times, I believe.) This looks like an editing error too.

- Some of the chapters are a little padded, causing the pace to lag a bit. For example, I thought the the chapter detailing Doctor Sahin's experience obtaining supplies on Rashid IV (and another critical object which does actually make for a reasonable plot point later) could have been much briefer. It felt like an unnecessarily long episode in a plot that felt like just a series of linear episodes until the end actually tied a few things up. Now, I'm not saying that linear episodes are necessarily of themselves a bad thing, but I personally much prefer that the overarching plot is given higher priority than any individual episodes or scenes, and that edits are made based on keeping a plot tight for the sake of the overarching story. It's not the only way to write, but I am confident it is the key to keeping a cracking pace.

- I was a little less than taken with the initial effusively positive attitude toward women in the navy, espoused at the beginning of the book by both Captain Robichaux and Dr Sahin (presumably to counter the potential reader's response to the fact that there are virtually no women in this fictional navy). I found it over-compensatory. I also thought some of the "facts" stated about women at that point were likely to be unsubstantiated. However, what was equally odd was the negative tone the Captain and the Doctor took later in the book when discussing women on an emotional level. Granted, these are their opinions as characters, but in both cases the total agreement between them made the dialogue feel, again, like "author-speak" and lacking in objectivity. (Given the acknowledgments in the book, I can only presume that these passages are sort of a nod to the author's wives, which, if so, is perfectly understandable ;-). Also the inclusion of Admiral "Kathleen Phillips", a compound name from the first name of one author's wife and, oddly, the other author's last name, would suggest such recognition.)

- One last thing: I am myself a Mormon (LDS), and the reference to Mormons in the book was something I enjoyed greatly (very funny!). However, there is a factual spelling error in the use of a term. The word "Zarahemia" is used a few times, which should in fact be "Zarahemla", that is, using the letter 'l' instead of 'i'. No problem, but worth a mention.


That's about it, I think. The book has great potential, regardless of the criticisms above. I did very much enjoy the novel, and am looking forward to reading the second in the series. Best wishes to both authors.
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on November 21, 2012
This novel is the best independently published military sci-fi book that I have read and ranks, frankly, among the best professionally published ones as well.

Characterization is strong and interesting. Descriptions are detailed and logical. Editing is not perfect (a few homonym errors: some/come, hear/near, etc.) but is quite well-done for a self-published book and better than some "professionally" published books. The science is present and plausible, without being pedantic or distracting. Military structure, discipline, procedure and relationships are encompassed within a believable framework. The story is captivating, and I can't wait for the next installment.

The authors' stated goal was to engage the reader in "some of the adventure, wonder, excitement, and vivid realism" of space, and, in this 100+ books/year reader's case, they have certainly succeeded.
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on March 22, 2014
This (and the sequel) is a rerelease of the author's previously self published book, now published by amazon. For a novel written by a new author, Mr. Honsinger tells a tight, well paced, and engaging story. This version is a bit more polished than the previous, and on the second pass, it's even better than the last version.

Humanity is fighting a war and barely holding on. Max gets promoted to Captain a destroyer with some serious problems. Morale, training, readiness, all in the toilet. And he has to lead the crew to fix it if he wants them to live. In real life, I've walked into a command that was like this (not quite this bad, but close) so this story hits close to home. It took a lot of effort by all hands to turn it around, but like anything in the military, change starts at the top. Max pulls together his new senior officers and they get to work fixing this broken crew.

The author tells a believable tale, made more so by his obvious dedication to research and history. The books is laced with references to modern and historical cultural, space, and military history. The mechanic of bringing midshipmen on as boys, and training them through adulthood, plus other facets of the bygone days of sail, was a nice touch and blended well with the submarine like style of combat. If space combat happens, I'm convinced it will be like this.

If you buy this, and you should, go ahead and grab the second one at the same time. You won't be able to put it down. Can't wait for the third installment.
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on December 1, 2012
This is the start of a promising space opera series. It quickly improves after a cheesy start to the point of "I can't put it down" for much of the novel. The ending drags on unnecessarily, but the great part of the middle section is engrossing, reasonably paced and informative. The authors of To Honor You Call Us: Man Of War (Volume 1) are clearly still in their learning curve, but have produced a fine space opera setting which will obviously produce fun plots.

The background and aliens are necessarily stereotyped to fit the genre, but Harvey Phillips and Paul Honsinger both understand _and_ deftly depict the real basis of shipborne combat effectiveness. They know what motivates men in combat. That alone pulls To Honor You Call Us: Man Of War (Volume 1) way out of normal for space operas, and makes it a Buy This Book, but they also understand human weakness and redemption. Their knowledge of people marks them as authors to watch.

This first effort of theirs has enough unevenness and stereotypes to bring it down from a 4 to a 3, but I very much look forward to more in what may turn into a near-classic space opera.
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on January 2, 2015
The fault for inflicting this sort of nonsense on us lies squarely on the publisher 47 North. Packaging a manuscript as is, no editing or review of the material allows complete morons to believe they can write
The story borrows heavily, but badly, from sources such as; Admiral Hornblower, Mutiny on The Bounty, Run Silent run Deep and the Hunt For Red October to name a few. The Science Fiction category allows for overcoming things like reason and common sense .
I won't "spoil" it for you but the protagonist is a spunky, compassionate officer wth expert level tactical experience, a working knowledge of 5 or more of the alien species in the galaxy, knows all the officers in the navy and has personal contacts throughout said navy....did I say this fellow is 28 years old? Then there's the kindly old Doctor with encyclopedic medical knowledge plus 5 or 6 advanced degrees in such as Interstellar relations, This fellow is 26 years old. So off to the races, assigned solo to interdict and destroy the enemy,far far away(why is the enemy always a "rat like, knuckle dragger with advanced technology?) with a crew of 615 mal adjusted, drug using uninformed "sailors" ( 20 or so are boys 10 to 15 years old,training to become navy recruits) During the cruise they charm an unfriendly alien admiral, capture a freighter full of gold. Of course they get to keep the gold, like the privateers of old. I'm going to stop there, but rest assured the c#%p goes on PHD.
Of course the good guys win, new alliances are formed and everyone gets the Medal Of Honor and goes home.
If you want to read a glorified, sci-fi Harlequin romance with no romance and not much sci-fi this is what to you deserve...., everyone else, give this a pass.
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VINE VOICEon February 21, 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a rousing and addictive science fiction novel, set several hundred years in the future. It concerns a small destroyer that ventures far into space to confront a more powerful and numerous foe. Most of the action actually takes place on board the ship, as the new commander tries to become a leader. He proves to be a skillful commander, one who inherits a troubled ship, a demoralized crew, and a shameful legacy. He works with a small circle of trusted officers to weed out the bad apples, snuff out a thriving drug trade, and instill confidence in the crew. If Tom Clancy had written about space travel, he might have done something like this. The story centers on the captain and , his ship physician, although the relationship was not developed as much as I hoped. In the background is a desperate struggle of humanity against a larger, better prepared alien foe. Humanity is losing the war, and extinction is a real possibility.

There are no grey areas in this novel. Good and bad have clear lines of distinction. Justice is handed out in quick and brutal fashion. The navy and its traditions (this is still the navy, even if the fleet is now made up of starships) are celebrated by the author. If you have a distaste for the military, patriotism, or the defense of human life by violence, then you will not enjoy this novel. For the rest of us, it is a terrific read. It kept me up late, turning the pages. The author writes well, especially when he builds the tension of battle against long odds. I look forward to more novels from this author, and I will be first in line to read them.
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on November 23, 2014
Honsinger's book is huge improvement in many ways from sagas such as the Honor Harrington series, though not without its flaws. His demonstration of good leadership of (unavoidably) imperfect soldiers is extraordinary. People are not perfect; they make mistakes; and giving them a reasonable chance to do better is the only realistic or responsible course. David Weber's people are perfect from the start, so his leaders are shallow figureheads.

Both authors have no idea what to do with women or with sexuality, and Honsinger "solves" that problem by leaving women out entirely. They've all been killed by an enemy bio-weapon or else recalled to home worlds to (I assume, based on no explanation from Honsiner) have lots of babies and hence ensure humanity's survival in the next generation.

There's an arithmetic problem, however. If half the women died more than twenty years ago, there shouldn't be so many children (or ANYONE under 20) aboard warships. Those children, just as much as their mothers, are the future of the race. They can't be risked in this way. There's also talk of MANY crew members getting mail from wives, girlfriends, and even BOTH wives and girlfriends. That seems terribly unlikely. Nor does it make sense for other human star systems being neutral in the war, after a horrific genocide like that.

Still, it's a big improvement over most of the genre.
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on March 9, 2013
I now have read both the books in this series. I cannot wait for more. If you like science fiction and books like the Hornblower or Aubrey-Maturin series you will love this stuff. Good writing, good editing, good characters and intriguing plotting.
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