Humans love having someone to blame for their problems. Admiral Battenberg of the Riyal Navy was hounded from office for having a German name in 1914. Stalin lopped off the heads of officers he blamed for disasters suffered by the Red Army during World War Two, as did Saddam. The whole idea of a scapegoat in times of trouble is as old as humanity itself. Someone has to be the fall guy.
In the universe of Admiral Who, the Montagne family launched an attempted coup against the government – and lost. Naturally, everyone on the wrong side (the one that lost) who managed to survive was treated as a pariah from that moment onwards. Jason Montagne grew up knowing that his sole role in life was to serve as Parliament commanded, with execution waiting in the wings if he showed any signs of political ambition. (Not too unlike a British Royal, only we hound them with reporters instead.) His latest position – which is supposed to be purely honorary – is nominal commander of a fleet in deep space. Real power is firmly in the hands of the Imperial Admiral in command...
...Until the Imperials withdraw, taking with them the best and brightest of the fleet – and leaving Jason in command. Jason, who knows nothing about deep space operations, let alone combat. Jason, who will be executed for returning home with a fleet, even one that seems on the verge of mutiny. Jason, who seems thoroughly screwed.
Jason is far from a perfect hero, which is part of his charm. He blunders from crisis to crisis – mutinous crews, an invading enemy – somehow managing to stay ahead of absolute disaster. His ignorance is both his strength and weakness; at one point, he gives a very famous sword to a girl he rescued, only to discover that she was furious with him. It turns out that giving a girl a sword, in her culture, is a proposal of marriage. And to add to the problem, there was more than a hint of accidental coercion in his actions...which makes Jason look like a dishonourable prat rather than someone who made a honest mistake.
He is helped by an Engineer who may be more than a little insane (and utterly devoted to the Lucky Clover, the ship Jason commands) and a crew that seems rather split on the issue of following him. Some just want to go home, others fear what he could do with an entire starship and plot to kill him.
As the story progresses, Jason finds himself growing into his role – even if everyone does keep asking the same question. “Admiral WHO?”
Overall, this book is a wonderful blend of comedy and space opera, very much like the early pulp science-fiction stories. If you liked the Stainless Steel Rat books, you’ll like this one. It is well worth a read.
Admiral Who can be downloaded from Amazon Kindle.