This installment in
the series is perhaps the least satisfying to date. Despite setting
up the crucial conflict between the People's Republic of Haven
and the Manticoran Alliance, Weber loses touch somewhat with the
people inside the fleet and the decision makers planetside. By
so obviously taking Admiral Sarnow's side in the clash of strategies
for Hancock Station, Weber demeans the authority of Admiral Parks
who made a reasonable decision with the information he had available
at the time. One of the key differences between Haven's and Manticore's
navies is the ability of field commanders to take needed actions
without waiting for confirmation from central command. Weber's
partisanship undermines the effective demonstration of how autonomy
is one of the RMN's not so secret weapons.
The impact of Rob Pierre's coup (and the historical pun is painful...) is lessened because Weber does not take the time to illustrate how bad the economic and political situations really are on Haven and why the Legislaturalists take the historically risky decision to start a war and hopefully pull the People's Republic out of its terminal illness. Pierre's actions take a cartoony air of vengefulness for the death of his son during his speech to the key coup plotters. We also miss the true scope of the Havenite revolution by not seeing much of the waste and excess of the old regime and the desire of some Dolists to overcome institutionalized lethargy and actually take back some control over their lives.
Weber also drops the ball with Honor's personal relationships in this book. Mike Henke gets reduced to a personal makeover consultant (even though I would have loved to see the transformation in progress, it would have been a fun interlude), instead of a competent executive who would have her abilities recognized even without her advantages in birth and connections. We also miss many of the nuances of this supposedly strong friendship between Mike and Honor. Weber's worst offense is allowing the cursory development of Honor's romance with Paul Tankersley to take away the significance of watching Honor begin to trust her own emotional resources and take risks in a romantic relationship. The romantic tension gets reduced to a description of couple of sparring matches in the gym and some quick statements about how Paul really despises Pavel Young and has a supposedly close friendship with his cousin Mike Henke. After thirty-odd celibate years, Honor doesn't seem like the kind of woman who would hop in bed with the first man who had the persistence to make his interest known in a very long time. I never got the sense that Paul, even though he's a nice guy, really is a worthy match for Honor.
On the other hand, the Battle of Hancock is an exciting read and Pavel Young's treachery makes a good transition to the main conflict of the fourth volume. Honor's assumption of command authority after Sarnow's disablement demonstrates that she will break rules to win the fight and that the Admiralty does tolerate violations of the chain of command if the battle is won.
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Field of Dishonor
Once I got past the dreadful Michael/LaToya Jackson cover art, I was engrossed in the neverending conflicts in this installment. We actually get to see a lot of the political machinations which drive the military decisions on Manticore and how they interfere with the necessity to adequately punish Pavel Young for his treachery. The court-martial scenes are well drawn, and featured a lot of political intrigue between Honor's mentor, White Haven, and the government's political opponents on the court-martial board. I gained some respect for Sonja "Horrible" Hemphill, who was the sponsor of the ill-fated gravitic lance Honor was stuck with in the first novel, during the deliberations. We also get to see how the North Hollow machine has been an effective tool for the Conservatives as a political party and for the Young family's advancement, even though all the family members we see are despicable slime. Young's use of the prime minister's disgraced cousin to kill Paul not only is a nice allusion to the past conflicts in Basilisk, it shatters Honor's mental stability. Weber moves quickly from the heights of Honor's formal investiture as Steadholder on Grayson to the depths of despair on the trip back to Manticore on Mike's new ship. Honor's new wealth and good advice from Neufsteiler shows that she doesn't have to rely just on her combat skills to fight her battles. Of course, some cooperation by her former subordinates McKeon and Venizelos and some judicious application of Marine force by Major Ramirez and Gunny Babcock to track down Summervale's patron doesn't hurt at all. She's got a lot of friends from previous volumes to help her in her fight, but to see Honor go off into exile on Grayson disgraced and alone at the end of the book is very tragic and a colossal waste of her ability.
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Flag in Exile
I enjoyed this book because it took the time to show how Honor's steadholdership drastically changes Grayson and the resistance to inevitable change by religious and political reactionaries. Grayson also takes advantage of Manticore's willingness to cast off Honor for political reasons to gain badly needed experience for their fledgling navy. The assignment of Alfredo Yu as Honor's flag captain and Mercedes Brigham as her chief of staff are nice connections with her past. All three of them are outsiders trying to make a new start on Grayson. Honor's new subjects in Harrington Steading are benefiting from her investments in new dome technology that would make Grayson a much more livable place to be. Of course, Honor has powerful enemies among some of the other steadholders, who would like nothing more than to destroy her and remove this new threat to their power and the old order. Even while some of her new peers are conspiring to bring her down, the war with Haven moves to threaten Grayson once again. The pace of the conflict in this book is relentless and moves from the conspiracy to destroy Sky Dome's new facility and make Honor a villainess instead of a heroine, through the assassination attempt at the space facility and Reverend Hanks' murder as well as the duel with Burdette, into the final conflict with Havenite forces. Honor's exhaustion during the Fourth Battle of Yeltsin matches the readers', but she survives to fight another day.
On a personal note,
this book has my so-far-favorite line in it. Before the duel,
the Protector is trying to find a way to get Honor out of fighting
Steadholder Burdette, even though his power will be severely compromised
by doing this. Honor interrupts him (which is Just Not Done) and
asks him, "I have just one question. Do you wish this man
crippled or dead?", then proceeds to lop off Burdette's head
in one swift stroke. She wins her place in the Shrine to the Warrior
Goddess for this scene alone!
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Honor Among Enemies
This is the most subtle installment of the story to date and the first to actually take a significant amount of time telling secondary characters' tales instead of just showing how they interact with Honor. Honor gets called back to active duty in the RMN through some machinations by some of her old enemies, and gets assigned to command a squadron of armed merchant cruisers tasked to help stop the loss of Manticoran merchant ships in the Silesian Confederacy. They consider it a win-win situation for themselves. If she manages to stop some of the piracy, they win, and if the pirates kill her, they win. The Manticoran Admiralty wants her back bad, and they're willing to send her to Silesia in order to eventually get her back in the thick of the war with Haven. We learn how far Manticore's resources are stretched in order to fight the war. Also, not everything is sweetness and light in the enlisted ranks on HMS Wayfarer. Honor's new ship has some of the dregs of the RMN on board, and Steilman and his cronies are villains in Pavel Young's tradition. We watch a young crewman, Aubrey Wanderman, learn to fight his own battles and learn more about Marine life on ship. We also get to see some new cultures which are key players with and sometimes adversaries of Manticore. The history of the Andermani Empire is an excellent example of how a pirate can create a nation and the Silesians are cautionary examples of how piracy, corruption, and incompetence can prevent any effective nation from forming. In addition, Klaus Hauptman makes an encore appearance to influence Honor's recall to active duty and set up the final conflict. The most rewarding part of the story is watching the crew of the Peep light cruiser Vaubon show that some Havenites have their own honor and are worthy of respect.
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In Enemy Hands
This book was not an easy read, and is the darkest in tone in the series to date. After a prelude catching us up on current events in the People's Republic of Haven, events start well enough with Honor's return to Grayson as an RMN commodore soon to assume squadron command in the Alliance Eighth Fleet and serve under her mentor, Admiral White Haven. Nimitz, Samantha, and their four kittens are with her, as well as several other members of Nimitz's clan which form the core of a new treecat colony on Grayson. This emigration becomes a source of great controversy back on Sphinx and Manticore. Upon their arrival, one of the other adult treecats adopts Honor's maid Miranda LaFollet, the first non-Manticoran adoptee. I'm sure more adoptions will follow.
Honor decides to establish a clinic in her steading specializing in genetic therapies which will benefit all Graysons and put her mother Allison, a noted specialist, in charge. Allison's arrival on Grayson is a whirlwind effort to set the prudes of Grayson back big time. The Ladies Clinkscales get brownie points for unshockability and Katherine Mayhew aids and abets her offensive in the Grayson fashion wars. My friend Soren describes her impact on Grayson as "sort of Susan B. Anthony, Marie Curie, Gloria Steinem, and Jeanne d'Arc all rolled into one, with a little dash of Lauren Bacall." We'll need to see Honor's dad on Grayson as a necessary counterbalance soon.
Honor also brings Admiral White Haven up to date on technological developments in a nice confrontation which heralds a significant change in their relationship. Both Honor and Hamish realize that they are attracted to each other, which answers the ongoing controversy in cyberspace about who her new man will be. Honor thinks that this could very well transcend her relationship with Paul, and Hamish hasn't been this attracted to a woman since he fell in love with his wife Emily. He's confined himself to several brief affairs with women friends after his wife's accident; but Honor is the first significant threat to his marriage. Fireworks will follow in a future book, I'm sure. We also find out that Honor is descended from settlers that were genetically adapted to life on high-gravity planets, and that her inherited modifications include an enhanced metabolism, as well as other adaptations, at the price of an inability to tolerate regeneration therapies. Besides her exercises, this explains why she can eat like a longshoreman and still stay thin (I'm jealous).
Honor is left quite unsettled by the developments with Hamish, and takes the opportunity to take command of her squadron early. She wangles an assignment as a convoy escort for her squadron and she is joined by Alistair McKeon, her exec in the first book, who is in command of HMS Prince Adrian and is up for promotion to commodore as well. Hamish is left equally unsettled by her departure, and both of them seem prone to uncharacteristic lapses of judgement. Love can do that to you, I guess. After Honor's departure, the Peeps manage to win a battle in a decisive manner using a lot of technology they've gotten from the Solarian League despite an embargo, and capture the Adler system. Honor's convoy is scheduled to stop at Adler, not knowing about the Peep victory there, and Alistair commands the lead ship. Honor and several of her officers travel to Prince Adrian to celebrate Alistair's birthday and promotion, and end up being with Alistair when they find the People's Navy in control. They manage to draw off the Peeps and manage to tell the rest of the convoy to hightail it out of the system, but the death ride of Prince Adrian is averted by Honor's orders to Alistair to surrender his ship, which is a mark of shame, considering that less than forty RMN ships have surrendered to the enemy in the Navy's long history. Many of the most sympathetic Peep characters in past books show up again, and their ranks are increased by several interesting new characters. The Peep captors treat the Manty prisoners well, just like Honor has treated her Peep prisoners in the past, but all hell breaks loose when Cordelia Ransom, one of the Peep ruling triumvirate that is out in the field trying to drum up support, finds out that Honor is a prisoner.
Ransom has the use of the Peep battlecruiser
Tepes, which is staffed with State Security, not Navy crew. The
Tepes' crew are the scum of the People's Republic and their sadism
is a combination of the worst Nazi atrocities coupled with torture
tactics right out of the worst Central or South American military
dictatorship. Ransom takes custody of Honor, who she names a civil
prisoner convicted in absentia of mass murder from the defeat
of the Sirius way back in the first book. This means that Honor
cannot rely on the Deneb Accords for proper treatment as a military
prisoner, and she is sent to the prison planet Hades for her execution.
Word gets back to the Alliance of her death sentence, and her
mother on Grayson has a breakdown. When Honor is condemned, both
she and Nimitz are severely injured in an attack on their captors.
Nimitz narrowly escapes death through the intervention of Shannon
Foraker, the Peep tactical genius we've met in past books, and
Fritz Montoya, who always seems to be around to patch Honor up
when she needs it. The Peep captors disable her cybernetic eye,
and try to break her both mentally and physically in some very
harrowing passages. Weber gives us some of his best efforts in
the series to date in depicting Honor wasting away due to poor
nutrition and her overdrive metabolism, and her emotional struggles
in the brig to find the core of her strength within. They also
have custody of several of Honor's armsmen and staff officers,
as well as Alistair McKeon and several of Prince Adrian's crew,
who will also be sent to Hades to witness Honor's execution. Senior
Chief Harkness manages to convince the Peeps that he wants to
defect, and commits many forms of treason, while using heretofore
unshown computer hacker skills in actually setting up a breakout
of all the Manticoran prisoners, including Honor. During the breakout,
the Peep captain Warner Caslet who is under suspicion by Ransom,
gets caught up in the escape attempt. Both Honor's armsman Jamie
Candless, and her former exec on HMS Fearless and current chief
of staff Andy Venizelos end up getting killed with some of the
other prisoners in the breakout. Andy's death in particular was
too cursorily handled to really do justice to his gallantry; Jamie
knew that dying for his Steadholder was part of his job description.
Harkness manages to get the survivors off in a couple of small
craft just before the Tepes is blown up by his sabotage of a pinnace
in a boat bay and they head for a landing on the planet Hades,
a particularly inhospitable place. Honor's former captors (the
sympathetic Peeps) witness the destruction of the Tepes and manage
to erase the sensor log that shows the two shuttles escaping.
Unfortunately, we don't know for sure if the evil Cordelia Ransom
is really dead, and Honor loses her left arm due to injuries sustained
at the end of the escape and insufficient resources for Montoya
to do his magic. We're left at the end of the book with Honor
and her comrades marooned on Hades but with enough weapons so
that they can attempt to free themselves. This is the closest
to a cliffhanger ending we've gotten so far.
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Echoes of Honor
One of my comrades in Weberphilia recently said the ending of In Enemy Hands was "in serious violation of interstellar conventions". Jenny, I couldn't have said it better myself. Ever since the hardback edition of IEH hit the stands, the collective fan community has been clamoring to find out Honor's fate on Hell, and the frenzy and anticipation surrounding the hardback release of Echoes of Honor was astounding. Even with a whopping twenty-four chapters available on the Baen website, I hadn't seen this kind of frenzy played out for any of the previous books, although we also didn't have as many resources in cyberspace back then.
This is a huge book that will undoubtedly get gobbled down in a couple of evenings, but needs to be revisited at a slower pace so that you can catch up on all the details, and there are *tons* of details. Another one of my friends says that this book had the best balance for her between the battles, the character development, and the techie goodies. I think this is in the top ranks, but there are some things that are holding me back from perhaps naming it the champion, of which, more later.
Weber does something rather different with the structure of Echoes. He broke the book up into six sub-books, with the odd numbered books showing life and death in the Alliance without Honor, and the even numbered books showing the story of the great escape. This has been a cause of frustration for many fans because they really wanted to know what was happening on Hades and to go for seven full chapters before seeing Our Heroine in book 2 made them chew their nails.
After a prologue showing the Peep propaganda of Honor's condemnation and execution, Book One opens with a heartwrenching depiction of Honor's Manticoran state funeral; David was merciful in not adding the pain of the Grayson funeral to the story. It then continues onward with the introduction of a new class of Manty ship, the LAC carrier Minotaur, commanded by our old friend Alice Truman, and joined by Jackie Harmon, from Honor Among Enemies, commanding the LAC wings. Jackie is the first top gun I've seen in the Manty navy, and her style contrasts greatly with the rest of the commanders we've met to date. She makes a good partner with Alice Truman though. We go back to Grayson to see Honor's parents cope with their daughter's loss and the planet with the loss of Steadholder Harrington. On the way, Allison makes a medical breakthrough which identifies why the Grayson gender imbalance is so extreme, and another one of the expatriate treecats adopts another Grayson.
Book Two returns us to Honor and her fellow escapees on Hades. She slowly recovers her strength and both she and Nimitz begin to adapt to their injuries suffered on Tepes. We learn a lot about how State Security has been running the planet and its unique ecosystem, as well as meeting new comrades in Camp Inferno, which was used for the incorrigible troublemakers, just the kind of people Honor and her crew need for the breakout.
Book Three returns us to the Honorless Alliance, and the fighting skills of the People's Navy have gotten a major upgrade with illicit technology transfers from the Solarian League and the fact that they have competent military leaders making effective decisions consistently. Things do *not* go well for the Alliance. We also get to see Hamish Alexander do some major league obsessing about Honor, which is amusing to contrast with Honor's lack of obsession. See, getting captured, condemned to death, maimed, and miraculously escaping a death sentence with a lot of help from her friends to land on perhaps the most inhospitable part of the local space-time continuum will tend to drive Honor's thoughts about a certain Admiral of the Green to a back burner, and I thank Goddess for that.
Back on Hades, Book Four shows us Honor, her crew, and the inmates of Camp Inferno taking control of the Peep bases on Styx. Honor reverts to her Grayson rank in order to make perfectly clear to a particularly incompetent arrogant POW Manty admiral that she is in charge and deserves to be there. Admiral Styles is such a lost cause that the Peeps did the Alliance a great favor by removing him from the war effort even before the Battle of Hancock in Short Victorious War.
Things go ever more worse for the Alliance in Book Five because Esther McQueen, with help from Theisman, Giscard, and Tourville and other good Peep tacticians, has cooked up a offensive plan that hits the Alliance at its heart. Hancock, Alizon, Zanzibar, and even Basilisk get attacked, and even some great heroics by Alice Truman and Jackie Harmon at Hancock and White Haven miraculously pulling off a two wormhole transit relief of the beleaguered forces at Basilisk doesn't stop a whole lot of pain and defeats from hitting the Alliance. Harmon becomes the latest Good Guy who we've gotten to know and love who dies on us. Ave atque vale, Jackie!
The climax of the book is in Book Six with Honor's great escape from Hades, filled with lots more new comrades and the formation of the Elysian Space Navy. This is actually the first time I recall a battle with Honor involved where *none* of the good guys get converted to plasma. And with the bulk of the over three hundred thousand POWs placed on slower transports for Trevor's Star, Honor and the fledgling combat units of the Elysian Space Navy manage to make their way there, for the obvious but still enjoyable "I'm back!" ending. Some fans wish that we had gotten to see the reactions back on Grayson with Honor's family and back on Manticore, but that is being saved for the ninth book.
Going back to my earlier comment about not necessarily ranking this installment number one to date, I guess what held me back a bit was the frenzied pace we get characters and events introduced and the timelines started getting harder to keep track of. This really is the first book where we get a depiction of the large scope of the war, and we get a feeling that things are going to get even larger in future books.
On a personal note, I hit a major fannish high point in book six. David, without telling me, named one of Honor's new ex-POW officers after me, and I'm still doing a happy bounce, even if my counterpart got sent to Hell in her lifetime. In fact, the other me gets to command the slow civilian transports back to Trevor's Star, but Honor beats me there by the time the book ends. David may still end up deciding I look good in red. Alto Verde Libre!
David also drew from the ranks of the Weberphiles for some other characters (you get to hunt the others out!), including the fabulous Man Who Dropped the Spanner, PO Richard Maxwell, who was named after Navbuoy (his RL name), one of the true stalwarts of alt.books.david-weber. We lost Richard to death right after Echoes was released in hardback, but we all knew that Navbuoy loved having the Silver Spanner named after him and treasured his official red shirt, since he had been joking with us for months after he saw the manuscript.
As always, we toast absent friends, real and fictional, and may the fictional continue to outnumber the real.
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Ashes of Victory
It took me quite a long time to get around to writing my comments on Ashes of Victory, waiting until well after the paperback release, instead of after the hardback release. I suppose I have to say that my delay is caused by my feeling that this is the weakest novel in the saga to date. If you look at the overall structure of the saga, the last three novels tell a continuous narrative, and this closing installment serves as a major transition point for the series. Lots of storylines get closed out, and hints are left for us to speculate where we're going next. The beginning of the book gives us the long-awaited return of Our Heroine to her two planets, but even though I enjoyed the reunions, I had a feeling that we probably could have gotten that part of the story told in fewer and more tightly written chapters. Honor gets to meet her twin siblings, her heiress presumptive and spare heir for her Steading and Duchy. Yes, she's now a duchess; her cousin ended up with her earldom after her presumed death, but the Queen managed to bump her up in the ranks even if the House of Lords still wants to ignore her continued existence.
Honor is going through the time in the body and fender shop she so desperately needed after her trials on Tepes and Cerberus, and gets assigned to command the Advanced Tactical Course at Saganami Island, where she gets some needed practice in the art of mentoring, rehabilitating the career of a worthy officer brought down through incompetence in Echoes, as well as serving as inspiration for the student body. This section was my particular favorite in this book, because I think Honor is a much more effective teacher than she is a politician. In addition, Nimitz, reunited with Samantha, also gets some major rehab work while giving us a glimpse into heretofore hidden skills of treecats.
Events in the People's Republic of Haven take two major turns, first with a failed coup by Esther McQueen, and then with a successful coup right at the end of the novel. Between these two events, Peep intrigues with Steadholder Mueller (you knew he'd be back causing trouble, didn't you?) result in a major political upheaval for both the Star Kingdom and the Protectorate of Grayson. Things are going to be quite different in future installments of the saga.
I think the amount of tech advances in this book is lower than the frenzied developments of Echoes, but the political machinations exceed those of Fields of Dishonor, because we're seeing upheavals in three star nations, not just one.
Weberphile Tuckerizations in Ashes include my valued assistant in newsgroup archiving, Joe Buckley (he's in charge of keeping the dates straight), and another abdw stalwart, Frank Ney. Both gentlemen's namesakes failed to make it to the end of the book still in intact form, but my namesake and that of my Elysian Navy comrade Sue Phillips ended up making cameo appearances near the end with promotions as part of the command cadre of the Grayson Navy's Protector's Own Squadron. I've got a feeling that my time to be converted to plasma is getting closer when the GSN is next under fire. For Grayson and the Sword!
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More Than Honor (the first Honor Harrington short story anthology)
I've been telling people who ask that it is a very good idea to hold off reading this collection until after they've read In Enemy Hands because the Stirling story in particular is a spoiler for events mentioned at the beginning of that book. However, if you want, you can read the Weber story after Field of Dishonor, because the events were first mentioned there. You might find it hard not to peek at the other stories after the Weber one, though...
The first story is David Weber's tale of how Honor's ancestress, Stephanie, became the first treecat adoptee (the adventurous treecat Climbs Quickly is the first to bond with a human) and is chock full of glimpses into treecat culture and the impact that human settlement of Sphinx had on the treecats. It was absolutely fabulous and David will have to give us more glimpses of how the treecats on Sphinx and Grayson deal with events among themselves. We're getting more and more glimpses of treecat culture in later short stories.
The third story by S. M. Stirling is a retelling of the Leveler rebellion on Haven from the point of view of Esther McQueen, the Peeps' finest admiral and one who gives Admiral Lord White Haven and Admiral Kuzak a major run for their money. Stirling does a great job of keeping within Weber's style, you almost could swear that David himself wrote this story.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same for David Drake's contribution which is the tale of a Manticoran nobleman off exploring for artifacts on the rundown fringes of the Solarian League. I really couldn't get into this story at all.
And, David Weber finishes off the book with a long appendix full of historical and technical tidbits about Honor's universe. Backstory addicts like me will have a field day with this portion of the book.
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Worlds of Honor (the second Honor Harrington short story anthology)
Well, we didn't luck out with good cover art on this book, and there was an egregious typo of Jane Lindskold's name on the dust jacket. Also, I have reservations about a hardback release for short stories. I think many fans who would ordinarily splurge on a hardback novel would hesitate at paying hardback prices for short stories. However, this was a more satisfying collection than the first one. Perhaps the overall theme of this book is the interaction between treecats and humans, because treecats are pivotal in the events of all the stories except Roland Green's.
Linda Evans goes back to Stephanie Harrington's time and another one of the first adoptees, who incidentally has heightened empathic abilities from his Scottish ancestry. Scott MacDallan and his partner manage to foil an offplanet attempt to exploit Sphinxian natural resources.
Weber's first contribution describes the adoption of Crown Princess Adrienne of Manticore, which is pivotal in ensuring the protection of treecats from offplanet exploitation brought on by interest in their empathic skills. We get an interesting glimpse into the early life of the House of Winton, and a scary look at how unscrupulous people and governments can use mental manipulation to work their will. This theme seems to be absent from the novels to date, but I wonder if we might see something like this in future installations of the saga by members of the Solarian League.
Jane Lindskold takes us up to the accession of Manticore's current Queen, Elizabeth III and answers some questions about the offplanet and domestic intrigues surrounding her father's death. This story would have been in the first anthology, but was bumped for space. Of particular interest to the current events in the novels is the adoption of the Queen's fiancé by King Roger's treecat. This establishes a precedent where a widowed treecat may end up choosing another human, so I wouldn't be surprised at all if Samantha chooses another partner. We also see Mike Henke as a young lieutenant providing support to her cousins during their bereavement. I like Mike a lot, and hope to see more of her in future.
Weber's second story features Honor herself during the time when she was a lieutenant commander and exec of HMS Broadsword and rescued civilians on Gryphon from an avalanche. This event was mentioned in passing in On Basilisk Station by Pavel Young, and Honor herself runs afoul of one of Pavel Young's noble relatives who shares his dislike for her. Incidentally, one of the civilians Honor ends up rescuing with assistance from Nimitz is Susan Hibson, who we see later on as one of the Marines in the Battle of Blackbird and also on HMS Nike during the time frame of Field of Dishonor. Susan seems to be a very precocious woman, or perhaps you can advance more quickly in rank in the Marine Corps, because she goes from being a adolescent in this story to a fairly high ranking officer in the novels. Honor herself has only advanced from lieutenant commander to captain of the list in this same time frame. Come to think of it, Tomas Ramirez also seems to have moved quickly through the ranks, so something must be said for upward mobility as a Marine. Susan Hibson is another one of those interesting women I'd like to see more of.
Roland Green closes out the book with the only non-treecat story which is set well away from the main story arc of the war. The war manifests itself as a struggle between technical advisors from the Alliance and from Haven on a backwater planet, and we get the largest look at ground combat to date. The story itself was more readable than Drake's effort in the first anthology, but it also is the one story I don't find myself re-reading in this book.
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Changer of Worlds (the third anthology, read after Ashes of Victory!)
The title story first appeared in the Balticon 33 souvenir program and has been available on line since last year on Mike Weber's website (with David's permission) for those who weren't lucky enough to attend Balticon 33 in person or order a copy of its program. The URL is: http://weberworld.virtualave.net/david/storyframe.htm.
Well, those of us who wanted to see treecat life in action got a treat in this story. Nimitz and Samantha go back to Sphinx after the events of Honor Among Enemies to meet his clan (Bright Water Clan, the same clan that Climbs Quickly came from). We learn what their names among the People are (Laughs Brightly (Nimitz) and Golden Voice (Samantha)) and why Samantha is such an unusual treecat, as well as their name for Honor herself (Dances on Clouds). This story supplied the necessary backstory to explain why members of Bright Water Clan helped form the Grayson treecat colony and is definitely an important addition to the canon.
David also contributed two other stories to this anthology, "Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington" and "Nightfall". Nightfall gives us the narrative for the aborted coup of Esther McQueen that we didn't get to see in Ashes of Victory and fellow backstory junkies like me will be glad to have it, even if we already knew the outcome. "Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington" also gives us a glimpse of the very young Honor fresh out of the Academy with some rough edges. We also find out why Elvis Santino was always such a waste of oxygen and why Honor took so much pleasure in rehabilitating the career of an officer who ran afoul of Santino in Echoes of Honor.
Eric Flint contributed the final novella, "From the Highlands" and it gives us the first real look at the Solarian League and the first sympathetic major character who is unreservedly left of center, an expatriate Manticoran countess who shares the dubious distinction of being kicked out of the House of Lords with Our Heroine. We also get to see the family of Helen Zilwicki, one of the real heroines of the Havenite War, in action in Old Chicago.
This was the first anthology that I can say had all its stories worth the time to read and re-read.
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My quibbles with the series as a whole
Weber can describe a good battle, but his dialogue can be incredibly stilted and his historical and literary allusions lack subtlety at times. He's obviously done his research on how battles were fought in the age of sail and translated it 2000 years into our future, but his love for describing the fight sometimes overshadows the need to show that human beings are in those ships fighting and often dying. We also never really get a sense of what the war effort is doing to the civilians on both Manticore and Haven. Honor's injuries for the most part occur outside the scope of ship to ship battle, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me considering how many members of her bridge crews have been killed or grievously injured. Her worst injuries to date occurred during the attempted Maccabean assassination, the Burdette armsman's ambush, and the great escape from Havenite State Security. Weber also tests my tolerance by managing to kill off characters we've come to know and love in each story. One of my friends pointed out to me that it would be too predictable to only kill off the characters you don't know well (think the anonymous red-shirted low-ranking officer that is always the inspiration for the Classic Trek line "He's dead, Jim.") and keep the main characters alive. Sometimes Weber does a better job of giving the sacrificial lamb a good farewell than others. At least he gave Jamie Candless a good farewell line in In Enemy Hands, but he didn't also give Andreas Venizelos a similar gallant sendoff to Valhalla.
Let me now take the opportunity to out myself on this website as a member of the "Honor Harrington Deserves Better than Hamish Alexander" faction of Honorphiles. I've taken part in numerous debates on this topic in email and at the Austin Steadholder's Guard Gathering in 2000, and one of my friends and I whiled away the long drive back from seeing David at CopperCon in Phoenix back in 1999 riffing on why we think Earl White Haven makes a great action hero but sucks as a romantic lead. I can think of several worthy gentlemen who would make better romantic partners for Our Heroine than the Earl of White Haven, most notably Alistair McKeon, Werner Caslet, and my personal front-runner in this derby race, Tomas Ramirez. A certain commodore in the Grayson Navy would be happy to make the effort to bring polyandry to Harrington Steading with any or all of these worthy gentlemen if Duchess and Steadholder Harrington isn't interested :) (hinthinthint, David...at least let her have some fun before you turn her to plasma!). You know those infidel women from off Grayson, they're always up to no good. Yes, I know things are pretty much set in ceramacrete and Hamish is indeed The Man, but I don't have to like it unless and until David makes it work through good storytelling. My major objections are as follows: Uno: Besides being very married, Hamish also thinks like someone from pre-prolong days at times. Dos: He really can be a manipulative SOB, even with his brother and closest friends like James Webster. It's a great survival skill in the military and in politics, but it doesn't make him a comfortable person to be intimate with and frankly he'd be hard to be friends with. One of the nice parts of Honor's relationship with Paul Tankersley was that they seemed to be good friends first before they became lovers and they didn't have the age differential munging things up. Since we haven't met Emily at all except in brief descriptions, we only have minimal information about how Hamish is in his most important personal relationship. Tres: I get very uncomfortable when the mentor/protegee relationship gets charged with sexual attraction, it's something that sends "Danger, Danger!" signals to me.
Many fans have also
noted the tendency to resort to mass information dumps in the
middle of action; in this case, showing things in action rather
than telling would improve the story. I also think that perhaps
the most appropriate place to give the detailed technical information
or backstory would be in a separate concordance. Jim Baen, are
you listening? You could make a small fortune on this and I'm
sure many fans have compiled a lot of this supplemental information
to back up Weber's own technical notes. And of course, this concordance
would get expanded as the saga continues (more sales, Jim...think
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keeps me reading
In short, what is going to happen to Honor next? She is one of the first sf heroines that is not a cartoon of a strong Amazon but is all too human even despite her physical strengths and undoubted tactical prowess. She is the best up-and-coming future flag officer we've seen in the RMN and will either end up First Space Lord or become the latest naval martyr in Edward Saganami's tradition. She is emotionally vulnerable and hot-tempered, but she directs a lot of her wrath at those who take advantage of people and worlds that aren't able to defend themselves. In a pinch, I want her fighting on my side. Even with her vulnerability, she isn't completely detached from other people and has a intriguing bond with Nimitz that still has not been fully elaborated.
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What I want to see in the future
Weber could really flesh out the cultures in this series by going backwards in time. We got just a little glimpse on what besides Alfred Harrington lured Allison Chou to Sphinx in Echoes of Honor; Beowulf and the rest of the Solarian League have gotten cursory treatment so far. Also, what other influences did frontier life on Sphinx have on Honor besides get her used to firearms and adopted by a treecat? Manticoran society would be more interesting if we knew more about Sphinx than just that her natives are known for strength and stubbornness and Gryphon residents live to put sissies from the other worlds in their place. We also don't know very much about how the Manticoran settlers managed to create a new society and form of monarchy by combining North American and European traditions. Also, the religious civil wars on Grayson would be an exciting tale. Backstory, backstory!
In the present and near future of the series, what happens to the Havenite Revolution at home as well as what comes next in the war with the Manticoran Alliance? How long is Honor going to need to recover from her latest injuries? I'm sure that we'll be seeing more from the Solarian League and how their technological developments help the Peeps fight the war. Also, the Andermani are always there in the background and will probably be a key factor in future developments. The Silesian Confederacy doesn't seem to go anywhere else but down into utter disorder and a few more psychopathic pirates like Warnecke could ruin your whole century, not just your whole day. Also on a more personal note, what's going to happen between Honor and White Haven on the romantic front? Some in the fandom are avidly waiting for this, and others like me are dreading it. He is a married man after all, and we need to see more of Emily Alexander to get the whole story straight. We also need to learn more of the future for treecats off Sphinx.
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last modified 7 May 2001
copyright 1996-2001 by Cynthia Gonsalves