Recent reads: Spinneret and A Call to Duty

I've been meaning to post about the science fiction novels I've read since my last roundup and wow, is it ever slim.

 First up is Spinneret by Timothy Zahn. It was an interesting book, but didn't really wow me. The story is about humanity finally making it to the stars, only to discover that all the planets in this part of the galaxy have already been spoken for and there's no sharing.

Well, almost all of the planets. There's one, whose name I can't remember, that is habitable, but not inhabited. The United States (there's no world government in this story and the Soviet Union still exists) leases the planet in what the rest of the world regards as a boondoggle.

Why has this planet gone uncolonized? Because it's completely devoid of metals. As you can guess, the plot revolves around why and the attempts of the main characters to protect the colony once the secret is revealed. It's not a spoiler since it's included in the summary on the dust jacket, but the planet's big secret is that an ancient alien civilization built a huge machine that absorbs metals through the ground and converts them into huge cables that it then launches into space. The cables are invulnerable, have a highly adhesive surface and other properties that make them highly desirable.

A big reason why I read it was because of the cover, which reminded me of one of those 4x strategy games, like Master of Orion. Like I said, Spinneret is good but not great. It's worth reading, but don't expect to be bowled over.

Next is A Call of Duty by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Tom Pope, who's name isn't on the cover but is credited in the foreword. Weber and Zahn explain in the foreword that the reason Pope's name wasn't included was for marketing reasons. There was concern that having three people's names on the cover would make potential readers think that A Call to Duty was a short story anthology and not everybody likes reading those. They also point out that Pope's name would appear on the covers of the sequels and it has.

So anyways, A Call to Duty is the first book in the Manticore Ascendant series that acts as a prequel to the rest of the Honorverse. I'm debating doing a separate post about this book later on, so I'll keep it brief here. The story follows three plotlines. The first is about Timothy Uriah Long, a young man who craves order and discipline in his life, so he joins the Royal Manticore Navy. The second plotline follows the attempts by a group of politicians to get rid of the RMN in favor of the interests of their leader, Lord Breakwater. This is still the relative early days of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, when they were still a single system entity and had yet to discover the wormhole junction that would make them a major power.

The third plotline and the one that ties the other two together revolves around a group of mercenaries who are planning to steal two warships from a major ship sale that the Republic of Haven holds later on in the book.

All kinds of shenanigans and hijinks ensue that make A Call to Duty a fun and exciting book to read. I recommend it.

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