You guys, it has come to my attention that no one has yet signed up to write for the Seafort saga. UNACCEPTABLE, not least because it's one of my requests! I have realised that this is because no one has heard
of it, so allow me to bring some sweet, unadulterated joy into your lives and tell you all about the brave Nick Seafort and his many ill-fated voyages.Seafort Saga (aka the Hope series) by David Feintuch
First, let's have a look at our hero:
Isn't he just the most square-jawed young man you've ever seen?
Nick is born in Cardiff, at some point in the future (Wiki tells me it's 2177, but the timing is irrelevant in this series; suffice to say it is In The Future) into a world that is vaguely reminiscent of Victorian England, if Victorian England rolled out the Royal Navy across all institutions, whether on land or at sea. Nicky is, at fourteen, thrilled beyond belief to become a cadet at the Academy, and to eventually be shipped off on an interstellar voyage between Earth and several of its many dependent colonies. There are no aliens out there, as far as anyone knows, but space travel is difficult, time consuming, and eventually kills you: unless you start early enough and develop immunity to the plasma science, you develop melanoma. I suspect that this was introduced a hand-wavy reason to have a great many young men in neat blue uniforms, but I digress.
By the time we join Nick, he is seventeen and Senior Midshipman about
, which is not filling anyone with great confidence. He can't seem to wrap his brain around astronavigation, the second most senior Midshipman is older than he is, taller, better looking and more able to command a room, and Nick, we suspect, has yet to make the acquaintance of anything friendlier than his own hand.
And then a series of disasters robs Hibernia
of all senior officers and leaves Nick in charge. He has to deal with rioting passangers, mutinous crew, a broken computer, ambushes and, finally, an alien life form no one has ever encountered before that he cannot understand. So far, so standard space opera. Where this one differs is just how gay-friendly the writer is. Those who have come across The Still
- where a young prince must remain virginal and battle a variety of enemies, while being trained in mysterious ways by his mentor/lover - will not be surprised to read that Nick is similarly incompetent around women, and similarly unsure of whether he wants to have a relationship with one, or simply thinks it's the thing expected of him. The social and religious mores of Victorian England having been reproduced, and particularly amplified in the character of Nick's father (who appears to be a monk of some kind, to be honest), Nick is brought up to believe that homosexuality is wrong. However, his first love - his best friend, and the person he is most involved with as a pre-teen - is openly gay, and Nick is conflicted. Later on in the series, Nick spends a great deal of his time staring in wide-mouthed admiration at the various beautiful Midshipmen he has under his command, and a great many pages are devoted to detailed descriptions of just how beautiful and perfect they are.
This early on in the series, however, we have far less conflict and uncertainty. Nick is 17, he's trying to get laid - with a pretty schoolteacher - and meanwhile hijinks with his fellow bunkmates ensue. Sometimes, when they step out of line, they must be disciplined by being beaten over a barrel. It's, er, all very proper, I assure you.
Anyhow, once Nick takes command, he is torn between trying to remain friends with his former bunkmates - prettier than ever - or being the untouchable Captain. He quickly becomes exceedingly tortured and conflicted. He's kept in line by the brilliant Darla - YOU READ THAT RIGHT - who is the ship's computer, and isn't going to have any of his nonsense. Until things start to go wrong with her as well...
Basically, Midshipman's Hope
is a fun, sexy romp, with some space operae thrown in. Nick is Very Serious and Earnest about things, and seems intent on self-flagellation. The world David Feintuch constructs is actually quite interesting from a post-colonial perspective, especially some of the self-justifications used to bring about regressive social rules (I'm looking at you, ConDems!). I do recommend giving it a shot, especially if you're a fan of slashy space operas, as it isn't hard going at all, and has some very endearing characters.
And speaking of AWESOME CHARACTERS -
OK, I don't actually have a picture of Edgar Tolliver, but I imagine that he looks something like this:
Edgar Tolliver is a Lieutenant in the God-damned Navy, and has no problems with bending you over the afore-mentioned barrel.
I, er, had more coherent thoughts on him, but Tolliver and Nick roomed together at Academy and DO NOT GET ON when they meet again in the third book, Prisoner's Hope
. Tolliver took too much pleasure in the hazing inflicted on earnest young Nick (being a sarcastic git even back then), and Nick is the type to bear a grudge. But after an accident leaves Tolliver demoted and sabotage leaves Nick crippled, the two must rely on each other to try to thwart a violent revolution on the biggest colony, Hope Nation. Tolliver is NOT IMPRESSED, especially aftr Nick pulls a spectacular stunt to try to prevent the annihilation of Hope Nation by the invading alien... fish. OK, no matter how many times I write that, it still looks funny. Why don't you look at the picture of Paul Bettany for a while.
Good? OK, then. Having accomplished that, Tolliver and Nick - on incredibly familiar terms (as in, Tolliver is by then allowed to touch
Nick, which is a crime that normally carries a capital sentence, and to also talk back to him, occasionally call him by his first name, and any other number of little familiarities) - then have to spend several months locked together on the UNS Victoria
journeying back to Earth. Once there, Nick will take up his position as Commendant of the Academy, hence the spiffy white uniform you see above on the cover of the fourth book, Fisherman's Hope
You guys, this book is worth the price of admission alone. Tollier is his sarcastic, mocking best, smacking Nick down when he gets too self-righteous or setting him straight when he wanders off. When Nick risks himself in a stupid Kirk-esque manner at one point, Tolliver goes berserk trying to find him. By this point there is not a single person in the universe who can convince me that they're NOT shagging on a regular basis. Nick even seems to have been miraculously cured of his uncertain sexuality woes. We never really have long, heartfelt descriptions of Tolliver, just his constant, comforting presence as he tells Nick that he's being an idiot. Bliss.
Here, have some quotes:
After the midshipmen manage to turn off the gravity at Lunar base (my meddling with the gravitrons), and Nicky has fired someone -My tone was glacial. "Tell him you're no longer employed at Naval Academy. Get out! Now, before I call Mr. Tenere to help!" Adam had recent experience in removing uncooperative superiors. I wondered if he'd find a posting anywhere, if I allowed that into his record.
Crossburn threw his notes onto the table. "You'll hear about this, sir. I'm not done -" He saw my expression, and fled.
For a moment all was silent.
"Very instructive, sir. I must remember that technique next time a middy -"
"Edgar, shut up!" He was truly impossible; why did I put up with him?
Jeff Thorne asked in a plaintive tone, "What, exactly, does a systems and maintenance officer do?"
I growled, "There's a manual someplace. Read it."
Tolliver said helpfully, "His main duty is keeping the middies away from the gravitr-"
Later on, they're negotiating over some visiting VIPs. Tolliver is trying to reason with Nicky:"Be reasonable. You can't tell them who to bring and -"
"Who runs this place?" I threw myself into my chair.
"I'm not quite sure, sir." Tolliver regarded me gravely. "Do we get hints?"
Jeff Thorne intervened before I could explode.
And, finally, when the shit hits the fan -"Am I relieved?" Tolliver.
"You put Thorne in charge. What will you have me do?"
"Go with me."
His tone was bitter. " I thought so. I'm at your orders."
I said gently, "It wasn't an order, First Lieutenant Tolliver. "
"I'll go. We started together. It's fitting that we end together."
Snark and loyalty - what more do you need??