A good SF adventurer about an attempt to get plans for a spaceship contained in a well guarded library on another planet. This is the first in Pournelle’s CoDominion series. It takes place after The War as human colonies lost the ability for space travel. Now they’re recovering. The book was rewritten in 1981 as “King David’s Spaceship.”
The planet Prince Samual doesn’t want to be treated as a colony. Their only way to go up in rank is to have space travel. They’re nowhere near the technology. The head of the secret police service, Malcolm Dougal, waylays Colonel Nathan MacKinnie and his staff Sergeant. The two have been forcibly retired from active duty and don’t have much to do. While the Sarge is passed out thanks to a knock on the head Dougal explains what he wants MacKinnie to do.
He’s to pose as a Trader and never reveal his Navy background to anyone. He’ll gather some of his old company and hitch a ride to the planet Makassar. That’s where the library is that contains blueprints for a spaceship.
Makassar is a backward planet. There’s an excellent battle scene against pirates complete with swords and other related weapons. Now MacKinnie and company are in the city containing the library. He has close to a year to break in and get the blueprints. That’s not a long time.
The old library is now a Temple run by priests from New Rome. The area is surrounded by barbarians about to invade. MacKinnie has to call on his military background to get an army in shape and drive off the invading horde.
This is an entertaining novel about the rebuilding of an Empire. The CoDominon series has various sections, “Falkenberg’s Legion”, “Laurie Jo-Hansen”, “Moties” and War World.” Not all sections have the same characters.