Midshipman’s Hope (The Seafort Saga), by David Feintuch
Nick Seafort is a seventeen year-old midshipman who suddenly becomes captain of his starship.
Bound by his oath, he cannot lay aside his duty to command, though he knows he is unqualified. It would be easy to return to Earth, but he decides to go forward on this months-long trip to deliver needed supplies, though the other officers and crew cannot believe it.
But Nick is no ordinary sailor. Instead of becoming a disaster, we see him make one wise move after another. This is not because he is smarter or more skilled than his peers; far from it. Instead, he is dogged in his determination to be thorough in his duties and to maintain the respect due him as captain. By enforcing discipline and not letting up on his sworn duty, we see him become the captain he needs to be.
Midshipman's Hope is not everyone's cup of tea. Nick's command is a lonely one, and he constantly wrestles with self-doubt. This is portrayed realistically, so readers who enjoy a more ensemble approach to leadership may be put off at points, but I encourage them to keep reading. Also, discipline among the crew is enforced physically, with the old practice of caning. Readers who are offended by such a concept should force themselves to read this novel, to see what is necessary on a ship where disrespect for orders and the chain of command can spell disaster. Also, the harsh but measured use of force to try to reform a bully among the midshipmen was eye-opening for me. The methods used will either destroy a bully or reform him, but there can be no letting up.
Fans of Ender's Game should like this story. Because of Nick Seafort's age, this novel is technically a Young Adult book, but it features none of the typical teenage angst and melodrama of the category. It's unfortunate that it is currently just in e-book format, otherwise it could be casually left around among teenagers to see what they make of it.