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Plot synopsis. The long war between the star kingdom of Manticore and the Republic of Haven has ended. But it isn't a case of happy ever after because a new enemy has struck from the shadows. Mesa, the highly secretive planet has its own agenda for the galaxy. Domination of all mankind and to achieve this they have been working in secret many centuries. Through bribery and corruption in the main they have induced the corrupt Solarian League into striking at Manticore following their own strike at the home system.
But all isn't lost yet. In a major turn around the former enemies are prepared to join forces to fight for their liberty and survival.
The storm that broke in the Manticore system has large ramifications. With increasing hostility between Manticore and the Solarian League, there are those who see an opportunity to 'humble' the 'upstart neo-barbs'. But Manticore isn't finished. It has been in very bad situations before and recovered, it hopes to do so again. This time with some very unlikely allies.
How do you defeat your enemy and make sure that he doesn't come back to stab you in the back? Either 1, you smash his infrastructure, decimate his population and ensure that no individual is left alive in a position to hurt you in the future...i.e. exterminate or enslave them or 2, make them your friends. (That’s why the Roman quotation. Explanation at the end)
For many of the years of this story line, the Solarian League has loomed in the background. A vast, rich entity. The greatest political entity in the galaxy, with a large navy. One so large that nothing can touch it.
But as we have discovered through these stories it has a fatal weakness. It is so vast that it is almost ungovernable. Certainly not by the elected politicians. Power has been concentrated into the hand of the unelected bureaucrats. As a consequence, graft and corruption are the norm and are rife. This vast, arrogant bully of an entity cannot believe that anybody could or even would dare to stand up to them. But that is just what has happened.
Due to the manipulation by Manpower, two incidents were engineered between Manticore and the league resulting in a loss of life and humiliation to the League. Naturally they cannot stand for this.
So the stage is being set for an even bigger confrontation than the war with the Haven Republic.This present book is setting the scene for future novels. When it was completed it proved to be far too large for just one book, so this is the first instalment.
What we have here is a lot of political intrigue and manoeuvring. There is some combat involved but nothing like as descriptive as in previous novels. In fast the narrative stops when the ships open fire and re commences with the aftermath.
So who are these new participants.
The Mesa Alignment is a rather shadowy cabal of peoples and some planets whose stated aim is to take over the galaxy and to repeal the laws on genetic modification of humans. Its weapons to date have been manipulation through bribery and corruption and also some engineered assignations. It does have some rather advanced ships and missiles but appears not to have them in great numbers.Certainly it has always acted from behind a veil of shadows previously in its manipulations over the past several centuries.Its plans appear to be going well, but they should remember that old adage "That no plan survives contact with the enemy", and they have just made a very dangerius enemy aware of their existance.
The Solarian league is the vast, wealthy political entity headquartered on Terra. It is a vast, fat, lazy,arrogant bully. Its primary instrument of policy has been its navy. It thinks it has the biggest and best Navy in existence with all the latest ships, tactics and research. Being a large bully it has never had an enemy who could or even would stand up to it. It is riddled with graft and corruption at almost every level of its unelected bureaucracy. Whilst it has a constitution very little attention has been paid to it.But strains have been appearing in this body. Some sector governors have seen what is coming and appear to be preparing for the break up of this organisation and for them to seize power.
This particular novel is not about the technology of this universe but is more people orientated. After all the stage needs to be set for future conflicts now that the 20 year war with Haven seems to be at an end. The technology of this universe has been competently handled. There are no super weapons invented and then rushed into mass production to save the day in the next day’s battle. Things have to take their time and that is how it has been portrayed. Whilst some of this technology may appear rather far fetched to us, certain things may well be possible and we are certainly researching some of the technology depicted here.
The major characters are all fully developed now, we do have new ones putting in an appearance from time to time as the story progresses. As such they are well developed and are fully understandable to us. They are good, bad, competent and incompetent. All traits we are familiar with.
These novels may have started life as a sort of "Hornblower" in space. The republic of Haven standing in for revolutionary France as having New Paris as its capital city and leading characters as Rob S Pierre and St Just. How this new situation is to be handled I don't yet know but some of the characters appear to be rather like British pre WW1 naval officers and politicians. After all Britain 'Ruled the Waves' and we did receive some rather nasty shocks from German warships.
Overall the feeling from the stories is more reminiscent of Sail powered navy battles. In those times ships and fleets could be out of contact with their home for months if not longer. Here the distances of the galaxy can cause great communication times just as then. A large amount of responsibility and authority was vested in Naval officers and these stories have the same sort of 'feel'.
This has been a very entertaining series of books. The story lines from the two spin off series are being woven back into the main stream, though I understand there will be further stories from them as well. I must admit I am looking forward to seeing just where this story goes now. After all it is entertainment rather than world shaking social comment. Some of the events may make you think and just possibly change your mind about certain events in this world.
You could read this book without having read any of the previous novels as a certain amount of overlap is present. However you would loose a great deal of the context of the various events and thus a great deal of the enjoyment. I do advise reading the others first. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book and the entire series to you.
Getting your hands on a copy. This is an American import published in March 2012 by Baen books. Due to the popularity of the series copies should be available in the major high street chains, like Waterstones. Alternatively there is always on line where this work is listed on Amazon at £12.67 from the RRP of £19,50 There may be some used editions to be had, price will vary with the condition of the book.
# The phrase is attributed to Cato the Elder (234-149 BC) who used to finish every speech he made with this what ever the topic was. It comes from the time of the Punic wars between Rome and Carthage of 264 BC to 146 BC. The full phrase was "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam". (Furthermore, I think Carthage must be destroyed) It was rendered as "Delenda est Carthago" in a famous 1673 speech before Parliament during the Third Anglo-Dutch War.