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Midshipman's Hope (Seafort Saga, #1)

PDF This is one of those books that's been recommended to me from a number of locations, and often arises as part of the "People who liked [insert military SF / space opera I've been reading] also love this!" recommendations here and there.

Unlike a lot of those kind of recommendations ... this was not a book I enjoyed, either as an reading experience or as a literary engagement.

It is, in fact, a military SF tale, and one that clearly draws on 18th Century British Naval tradition as its social and disciplinary foundation.Which is to say, it's rigid, authoritarian, and unrelentingly brutal, out to "test to failure" those moving up through the ranks through hazing, caning, imprisonment, and, at the extreme (but not so infrequent) execution.

This is part and parcel of a society that is similarly socially rigid (though with enough differences to not be a carbon copy), a reactionary and conservative Earth-and-colonies setup dominated by a single harsh Christian denomination and a world government that restrains any effort at change.

The protagonist, Nick Seafort, begins the tale as the putative senior middy on a ship just setting out to the colonies.Nick can do no good in his own eyes — everything he does, well or poorly, is a failure.That's a big part of my lack of enjoyment in the book, as the repetitive self-flagellation (on top of everyone's actual flagellation) eventually rises to profoundly neurotic levels. It's meant to be characterization, something Nick has to overcome, but it seems so poorly founded that when it does come time for Nick to rise above it, that, too, seems contrived.

In addition to the overwhelming GUILT Nick feels (caused in part by lack of officer training, in part by the inherent isolation of officers in this setting, in part by some other stuff), we also gt lots of ANGER.As in anger that leads to bad decisions. Or destructive decisions. Or anti-social decisions. Or decisions that drive off others. Most of which decisions involve giving orders for someone to be caned or otherwise punished, often at the drop of a hat (dropping one's hat probably qualifying for demerits and punishment).

In short, it's an extremely unpleasant setting with a rather unpleasant PoV protagonist.

Fortunately for Nick, it's an interesting universe (for him) in addition to the disciplinary mundania.Things ... happen.Coincidences.Conspiracies, perhaps, but mostly coincidences.Often stacking on top of each other in a way that becomes almost farcical.Nick runs into situations, places, people, all of which force him to lead, which he manages to do with unexpected skill and remarkable luck — all of which he feels guilty over, of course, which makes him lash out with more anger. Lather, sob, repeat.

Nick is miserable. Which makes the reader miserable (either empathizing with his misery, or having to survive through his misery).

Of course, the majority of this magically and unexpectedly wraps up by the end of the book, with the foundation laid for moving onto the next volume (there are several). Except ...

... I really didn't feel any urge to do so.Nick's first journey was complete, and I was just happy I lasted to the end, and was more than happy to disembark quickly.

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