David Weber is a good author with a few glaring weaknesses. Sadly, all of that is readily apparent in this novel.

The basic setup is that humanity gets to the stars, runs into an alien race apparently intent on wiping out everything other than itself, and after a tough war, looses. Earth, and all of the colonies, are destroyed, leaving one fleet with a last-ditch plan to start a new colony somewhere out of the way, avoid technology, and tell-tale high-energy emissions that will give the new colony away.

The prologue for all of this is excellently done, but is big and detailed enough that you’d think the point of the series is the buildup of Safehold to where it can try for a round two against the aliens.

Apparently not, it’s all set up for a long series of novels with lots of Age of Sail-style action. Not necessarily a bad thing, and let’s be honest, it’s Weber’s first love. But after all the initial high-tech setup, and the fact that that is the supposed end goal, I was hoping for a thick novel that deals with, shall we say, an inflection point in Safehold’s history, and then the next one could be a couple generations later, and so on, back to actually revisiting that prologue.

Inside of what we do have here, we Merlin, who’s basically Superman. As a high-tech android with the personality of a dead Earth naval officer, he’s got everything you can ask for: super strength, lightning reflexes, a library full of banned scientific knowledge… and a lack of allies. Actually, he does find those, and of course, war and action result.

The world building that surrounds this is excellent. That’s always been one of Weber’s strengths, and it is on display here, and is one of the primary reasons to read this. The plot is fairly strong as well, though it’s not really an 800-page plot; the book doesn’t need as much trimming as some other reviews say, but it does need some overall tightening up. If you want some lower-tech space opera, definitely read this, and I certainly plan on going on with the series eventually, but I can’t give it much more than a weak recommendation for particular audiences.