This is a very good book with a distinctly British flare. Our starship is the HMS Endeavor, captained by Captain James Somerville, Duke of Beaufort. In our previous book, we learned that Captain Somerville is not one of the crown’s favorites. In fact, he was put on the HMS Endeavor to get him out of the Solar System and as far away from the Empire as possible. If you remember, Captain Somerville was in a romantic affair with the King’s daughter, Christine. Unfortunately, the King did not want this romance to take place and he tried everything possible to make James give it up, but since, James was a Duke, he couldn’t just stick him in prison. And, Christine also knew that their romance wasn’t going to go very far because she had responsibilities to the Crown that were not matters of the heart. Eventually, and as part of a peace settlement with the Chinese, Princes Christine had to marry the Chinese Emperor! So, Captain James Somerville asked for a long term mission that would get him away from all the happenings on Earth. His Uncle happened to be his superior officer, Admiral of the RedJonathan Somerville, and he obliged by cutting those mission orders knowing it would take the HMS Endeavor a very long way from Earth and require quite a long time. Their mission outwardly, was to explore space and report back anything that would be of benefit to the Empire. Covertly, their mission was to find and apprehend former Chinese Minister Chang.
The former Chinese Minister was wanted as a war criminal, to be tried by a British court. Captain Somerville orders were very clear: apprehend Chang using whatever means necessary regardless of situation. Anyone giving aid or providing a safe haven for Chang was to be considered a war criminal also and treated accordingly. So, with some very open ended orders, Captain Somerville and the HMS Endeavor set off for the last know location of Chang which happened to be in Indian space. From there he follows a very interesting trail that leads him and his ship to some very strange places. According to some, he far exceeds his orders, oversteps his authority, and recklessly endangers his entire crew. Yet, the situations he found him and his crew in, required Captain Somerville to adhere to long established British traditions and basic humanitarian expectations. While his ship was built for exploration and not necessarily a British Ship-of-the-Line, she could fight and give a good accounting of herself. The HMS Endeavor would find itself fighting for its own survival and that of an entire species.
This is a very interesting and exciting story. There is a lot to it. When you think it should just about be over, it continues on another track which is a logical next step in the HMS Endeavor’s mission, maybe. As a Captain of a starship, far removed from the Admiralty and any means of communicating with HQ, the person in charge is the Captain, without question. Captain Somerville shows what it’s like to make hard decisions and not back down when the going gets tough. I like that although, I can see where he probably did exceed his given authority in several instances. But, as usual, those indiscretions are usually over looked when the outcome is extremely favorable. And, the HMS Endeavor does come back home safe and sound.
The British twist on this story is kind of interesting. Since I’m an American, I can see some differences in their approach to some of the problems they faced. I do not think an American starship Captain would have been as diplomatic in some situations as was Captain Somerville. Additionally, their seemed to be a lot of sole searching about whether they were doing the right thing even after they had made their decisions. I don’t think an American Captain, in the same position, would have done this. Once the decision is made, the action is taken and we tend to move on. The British seem to dwell on what they did in the past a little to much. Of course this is all my opinion and can just be ignored.
I’m looking forward to the next book in this series. The way this one ended, there should be plenty of room for additional books since there are already rumblings from the Indian Empire about what and where Captain Somerville found during his “exploration” mission. Every nation on Earth is obviously looking out for their own interest and looking for an easy target. Could be some very interesting stories coming up.