RogerBW's Blog

Call to Arms, Jay Allan 08 October 2022

2017 space-navy SF, second of its series. War has broken out in earnest, and Captain Barron and Dauntless are rushed out of the repair yard to join the desperate defence.

Well, what a shame. The first book had a lot of space-navy cliché in it, but it mostly maintained focus on the two ship captains, each trying to do their duty as they saw it. This time we have sprawling multi-viewpoint battles, and the unexpected but welcome developments in personality from that first book are just missing here. Instead it's space action and more space action: the delicate main weapons are broken until it's suddenly time for them to work, and flight deck controllers repeatedly say things will take twenty minutes only to be told to do them in ten. (Which is a great way to train your subordinates to pad their estimates in future.) Various equipment is run at 110% of rated capacity, and it never burns out.

Why are these two fighter pilots rivals? Nobody seems to know, not even them, but they can patch it up when it matters. The enemy are still Space Commies, complete with political officers, but it turns out they also have cloned slave-soldiers, and a huge mobile logistics outpost. (Yeah, Allan accepts that logistics matter, so that's good I guess.) A spymaster for Our Side fakes orders to get the nervous admiral out of the way so that the young aggressive admiral can take over, and gets away with it because Our Side's politicians are so corrupt that he can blackmail them… and apparently this is fine, or at least nobody seems terribly worried about it.

The battle scenes are lively enough, but the good guys have basically English-type names with very occasional exceptions and are mostly competent, while the bad guys have French-type names and are all about the political climbing and/or assassination, and there's nothing like moral subtlety to be found.

What impressed me in the first book was the tragedy of good against good, and Allan does not repeat that; this is merely by-the-numbers space navy fiction, and thus a huge let-down. I may read one more of these in case matters improve but I was sadly unimpressed by this one.

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Previous in series: Duel in the Dark | Series: Blood on the Stars

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