When things go wrong for Nicholas Seafort, they really go wrong. As one of the midshipman aboard UNS Hibernia, Seafort could never have expected to be thrust into the command chair by a series of tragedies. Once in the seat, the young officer will have to put up with a mutinous crew hired from the dregs of society, a passenger compliment that is often hostile to his intentions and dangers never before witnessed by mankind among the stars.
Midshipman’s Hope reads like a Napoleonic naval novel but with more lasers. UNS Hibernia makes up the setting for the majority of the novel as they complete the lonely journey from Earth to Hope Nation across the void. The ship, thanks in part to its civilian passengers, feels alive with a large amount of the novel given over to exploring the difference between the troubles of the common sailor and those of the wealthy passengers. Tensions often run high as Seafort fights to maintain control of his ship and uncover the cause of the terrible accident that cost the lives of the majority of the officers.
The twists come thick and fast in this novel and Seafort clearly struggles with his own demon’s throughout. In the hyper religious society that makes up humanity in the future, Seafort struggles to see himself as anything other than a sinner. He is a character that punishes himself for the smallest mistake even when the characters around him expunge him of any blame. As a character, Seafort is flawed. He is bound by his oath to the Navy and often acts in ways that he knows is morally wrong. Seafort isn’t afraid of making difficult choices and often reflects on the morality of his decisions. It is this reflection that makes Seafort a difficult character to hate. Whilst he appears stern, if not authoritarian, Seafort is a deeply troubled and emotionally strained man. We often feel sorry for the sacrifices he has to make in the name of duty to ensure that UNS Hibernia and her crew make it through the difficult journey.
Without giving too much away, this novel is definitely worth a read. It may just be another Hornblower in space but it offers some really refreshing narrative ideas and characters that seem to be aware of the implications of their own actions.