First Comes Duty by P.J. Strebor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First Comes Duty (The Hope Island Chronicles-Book 2) By PJ Strebor is a procedural science fiction with some element of military science fiction and political science fiction that might well rival David Weber's Harrington series. This is the second book in the series and I strongly recommend reading the first book Uncommon Purpose to get a full introduction to Nathan Telford and his strange story and somewhat strife-full beginnings.
I read this novel three times. I do that sometimes when I find something that was hard to swallow and I want to figure out just what it is. In this instance there were mitigating circumstances and nothing to be found or unraveled. The first read I believe was an ARC. The second I purchased the book when I was seeing double. That's not why I purchased it, it's just a medical condition. So because it's hard enough to read while seeing double, I didn't do a review. On the third time through the intent is to do the review with the whole thing fresh in my mind and I have to say I'm delighted I came back for a third look.
There are certain balances within the story that I really loved while there was at least one imbalance[in my perception]that became a bit annoying. The balance is the Military the political and the procedural. They all get about the same amount of focus throughout. The imbalance--for me--is that the bulk of the procedural is all in the front, making it hard to warm up to the whole novel. The only thing that drove that along were the myriad of interesting characters being set to it all with their own quirks and strengths and weaknesses.
The narrative is tight; despite the initial seeming endless procedural text. It takes a while to really get to the story but when it finally gets there the players are all introduced and the plot begins to thicken up and as a reader you begin to wonder how far things can go wrong and how many bodies will pile up on the way.
It is interesting to note that one thing I found intriguing was how the plot seemed to mirror the procedural in that everything that happens, whether it's something the characters have control over or the things that are going maddeningly wrong, fits into place with how the character either plans things or how they would logically react to them.
As with the previous story Nathan has his own set of quirks that sometimes work against him and sometimes are to his benefit. One of those comes narrowly close to creating his own internal deus ex machina. I'll just say that he has this talent that gets him out of tight spots. For the reader who dislikes those things this might begin to grind a bit because it's integral to the story.
The good news is he's not the only one with the talent so that means he isn't the chosen one. Or maybe I should say he isn't the only chosen one.
Did I mention there are plenty of strategic battles in the story to keep the reader interested. And narrow escapes for those characters who manage to make it to the end.
Each chapter has a timeline and location or setting note that I found I didn't need or read on the third time through. Again they are there for those interested though I'm not sure they add a lot to the story and it's clear enough that the average reader shouldn't get lost if he fails to follow the listed directions.
I think for anyone who loves the intrigue and politics of worlds like that of Honor Harrington, they should love these books. I'm looking forward to book three.
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