Books

Short works

Books : reviews

David Weber.
Path of the Fury.
Baen. 1992

rating : 4 : passes the time

Pirates attack the home planet of elite marine Captain Alicia DeVries, and slaughter all her family. Their mistake. Alicia teams up with a Fury straight out of Greek mythology, and a sentient spaceship, and goes looking for revenge.

[In Fury Born, 2006, is a revised version, containing a substantial prequel and more background material.]

David Weber.
The Apocalypse Troll.
Baen. 1999

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 23 January 2000

Colonel Ludmilla Leonovna, Terran Space marine, is caught in a last ditch desperate battle in the human war with the genocidal Kangas, to stop them travelling into the past and destroying humanity before the war even starts. She finds herself alone, injured, and virtually weaponless on an earth 500 years in her past, having to stop a deadly cyborg Troll capable of destroying the entire planet. Fortunately, she is plucked out of her crippled space fighter in the Atlantic Ocean by someone quite capable of helping her.

This reads like an early Weber. There are hints of the Colin MacIntyre series, with the genocidal aliens intent on destroying all other intelligent life, and of the Honor Harrington universe style of tech base. All the future, and present day, weaponry is described in the usual loving detail. The action is relentless, and the body count familiarly high, right from the initial futuristic space battle to the final slightly too easy showdown with the Troll. It makes a pleasant, if somewhat implausible, change to have politicians who are intelligent, courageous and far-sighted, rather than venal and self-serving. A good roller-coaster romp, but with some rather shallow and heavy-handed characterisation of the good guys and bad guys.

David Weber.
The Excalibur Alternative.
Baen. 2003

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 26 June 2003

This is a novelisation of Weber's story "Sir George and the Dragon", set in David Drake's Foreign Legions universe. Sir George Wincaster and his 14th Century English army are saved from drowning in a savage storm by an alien Federation trader, and pressed into service to "persuade" primitive natives on various planets to set up trade agreements. Sir George and his army perform brilliantly, but their hatred for their arrogant alien captor only deepens as the years go by, until finally an opportunity presents itself...

This story allows Weber to revel in low tech battles, even earlier tech than in Heirs of Empire (here longbows, not firearms). It's not quite the usual Weberian bloodfest, however (except on the natives' side), as the trained English soldiers merely cut swathes through the undisciplined native warriors. It has the old-fashioned pulpy premiss (which I must admit I miss now and again in these more PC times) that humans are a "special" species. Here they pose a threat to the Federation because of their high rate of innovation and progress.

The story is rather episodic (presumably reflecting its origin), and the conclusion rather obvious, but it's kind of fun getting there. It's also made me want to look out other stories in this universe: I want to find out more about the Romans.

David Weber.
Out of the Dark.
Tor. 2010

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 10 September 2011

The Galactic Hegemony surveys Earth, and is appalled by the barbarity of its primitive society, as exhibited during the battle of Agincourt. 600 years later, with one of their own uppity species demanding colonisation planets, Earth seems like a good choice. Colonisation will quash the barbarians before they can become a threat to the Hegemony, and it will also give the Shongairi something to do. The Shongairi are used to conquering primitive races, and expect little problem, even after discovering the humans have made amazing progress since the last survey. But humans are still primitive, so all the Shongairi need to do is take out all their major centres with kinetic strikes. After such a display of superiority, the humans will naturally surrender, and the Shongairi can turn them into a warrior client race.

Well, unsurprisingly, it doesn't go like that. The Shongairi are dumbfounded when the humans don't surrender like good little pack animals to the dominant alpha, but keep on fighting, in a guerrilla war. And human weapons are a lot better than the spears and arrows the invaders are used to dealing with. Maybe a more drastic solution is needed.

The majority of the book is humans fighting plucky guerrilla war against the invaders (with several ironic comments about Iran and Afghanistan). There is a fair bit of Weber-esque weapon-porn (here bullet and shell penetration specs, as opposed to Honorverse style missile counts), but as soon as the density of capital letters got too high, my eyes glazed and skimmed until the story started up again.

This is an okay account of guerrilla resistance to alien invaders, and a fair page turner. But I have three main problems with it.

Firstly, the collaborators. Or rather, lack of collaborators. All the humans are noble resistance fighters, putting aside their past differences to take up arms against the common enemy. Even the State Governor cooperating with the invaders isn't really cooperating, but feeding information to the resistance fighters. I find this uniform nobility somewhat implausible.

Secondly, the women. Or rather, lack of women. Weber is famous for his strong women characters, but they are in short supply here. We have a couple of resistance fighters' wives, nobly staying at home to look after the kids while the men-folk go off to gun down aliens. We have a couple of female soldiers in one group, who are allegedly the technical "brains trust", but we don't see them do much. We have a few civilians being rescued. And that's about it.

Thirdly, the vampires. Or rather, presence of vampires. Vampires? You're kidding, right? Hard core SF alien invasion, and then, towards the end, vampires? Now, this is an extension of a previous short story of the same name. I haven't read the short story, but I bet the vampire part is a larger proportion, and I bet the whole point is "aliens threaten to wipe out humanity, and so vampires come to the rescue". But in this novel length treatment, the vampires feel like a tacked on afterthought, and come across as a rather silly Deus ex Machina. (However, if this turns out to be the start of a series, about the rest of the Hegemony getting its comeuppance from the humans and their scary new friends, I could imagine Weber having fun with "Vampires in Spaaaace".)

David Weber.
Oath of Swords.
Baen. 1995

rating : 4.5 : passes the time

Bahzell Bahnakson is one of the hradani, a race feared and hated by all races because of the part they played in dark wizard wars centuries earlier. But Bahzell is an honorable man, prone to finding himself in scrapes after resecuing people in distress. One such scrape leads him to be outlawed and hunted by a rival hradani clan. And then the War God Tomanak decides he wants Bahzell for a Champion...

David Weber.
The War God's Own.
Baen. 1998

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 20 December 2006

Bahzell is still in trouble with everybody he meets, but now he decides it's time to go and help his father, as there seems to be more demon trouble brewing at home. It's a long slog across many countries, most of whom are hostile to hradani, and find the idea of a hradani Champion of the War God preposterous, if not blasphemous. And even once he's home, his troubles don't stop. His father is off to war with a neighbouring tribe, and Bazhell has to stop yet another group taking advantage of his undefended homeland. Good job the War God really is on his side..

David Weber.
Wind Rider's Oath.
Baen. 2004

rating : 4.5 : passes the time
review : 4 February 2007

Bahzell Bahnakson, hradani Champion of the War God Tomanak, is in the land of the Sothoii, where he is even less popular than he has been elsewhere, not only with the people, but with the famed Coursers. And again, there are Dark Forces at work, and he is right in the middle of things.

Much the same charging about fighting bad guys, demons, and what-have-you, although, like with some of Weber's other series, there's a bit too much plodding exposition from the bad guys themselves. (Although, one of the characters being set up as a Bad Guy turns out to have been in the right all along.) And how many books nowadays have a cover that accurately represents the scene in the book described in the very last sentence?

David Weber.
Old Soldiers.
Baen. 2005

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 18 February 2007

[This is a novel set in Keith Laumer's "Bolo" universe. I haven't read any other Bolo books, but they are (from reading this one!) giant intelligent tanks.]

Captain Maneka Trevor is a Bolo operator whose Bolo was destroyed in a battle. Lazarus is a Bolo whose operator died in the same battle. After suitable repairs and upgrades, they are assigned to each other, to escort a colony convoy to a new world, away from the war the humans are slowly losing. On the way, they are attacked by the enemy "Puppies", but survive to reach the colony world. However, a single enemy troopship has tracked them, leading to a final showdown.

This is essentially two giant battles: the space battle on the way to the colony, and the final land battle on the colony planet, with the Bolo being the key factor in each. The book's back-cover blurb makes a big deal of Trevor and Lazarus having to come to terms with each other, but that's a minor detail in the book. The battles are, in typical Weber style, lovingly detailed, with oodles of weapons specs, which I frankly skimmed. There is some character interaction between the battles, and the Weberian themes of people being damaged by the weight of their duty, but performing that duty nevertheless, are prominent.

David Weber, Steve White.
In Death Ground.
Baen. 1997

David Weber, Steve White.
The Shiva Option.
Baen. 2002

David Weber.
Mutineers' Moon.
Baen. 1991

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 31 December 1996

50,000 years ago, the Imperial battlecruiser Dahak, searching for signs of the periodically invading Achuutani, suffered a mutiny. The Captain forced everyone to evacuate, to Earth, where the surviving crew and mutineers have been in covert conflict ever since. Dahak has repaired itself, but has been helpless to intervene in the fight without causing massive loss of life. But now it has detected that the Achuutani are on their way at last; it can wait no longer. Unable by itself to quell the remaining mutineers, it kidnaps Colin MacIntyre, a NASA astronaut, and enlists his help, making him the new Captain.

Colin leads the fight against the mutineers, now overtly, because of the imminent danger from the Achuutani. In a series of escalating battles, the good guys win the day, and start preparing Earth for the alien battle to come.

David Weber.
The Armageddon Inheritance.
Baen. 1993

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 31 December 1996

Colin MacIntyre, now Governor of a united Earth, prepares to fight the Achuutani, a race that periodically sweeps the galaxy, destroying any sentient life it finds before it can evolve into a threat. It last swept by Earth 65 million years ago, and wiped out the dinosaurs, and is due back in just a few years.

The Achuutani threat is enormous: Earth could barely stand against a single scouting party, let alone the entire massed fleet of 3 million battle ships. So Colin departs in Dahak to get help from the Imperium. But the Imperium is gone, leaving just a few functional battleships behind. Colin has to take a drastic step to take command of these, then use them against overwhelming odds to save Earth, and the human race.

This story has all the signs of classic space opera: win one battle, and the next one is an order of magnitude bigger.

David Weber.
Heirs of Empire.
Baen. 1996

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 31 December 1996

Colin is now Emperor, of a three planet Empire. It turns out that not all the mutineers' Terra-born allies were discovered: one is plotting to become Emperor himself. His first strike is to assassinate Colin's heirs Sean and Harriet. But not everything goes to plan: Dahak has been watching over them, and they are merely stranded, on a primitive world, where they have to battle (literally) a theocracy before they can get home. Meanwhile, back in the Empire, they are mourned for dead, and the conspiracy moves ever further forward.

A step -- or ten -- down in scale: the battles are all with pikes and muskets! The plot alternates between the heirs' battles, and the conspiracy back home. The characters are better drawn than earlier: for example, it's good to see characters who feel 'survivor guilt' because 80000 other people died as a consequence of someone trying to assassinate them.

David Weber, Eric Flint.
1633.
Baen. 2003

David Weber.
A Beautiful Friendship.
Baen. 2011

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 8 July 2013

We met Stephanie Harrington, who makes First Contact with the Sphinxian treecats, in a story in More than Honor. Here that story (very slightly extended) forms the first half of this novel. The second half is the next step in her journey to becoming the historic figure we hear about in some of the Honor Harrington books.

This has a Young Adult, coming of age, flavour. As such, it eschews much of the turgid politics that has been creeping into to later Honor books. And there are no space battles! (But there are guns.) And there are still Bad Guys out to harm the treecats, so there's plenty of room for action in what promises to be another extended series.

David Weber, Jane M. Lindskold.
Fire Season.
Baen. 2012

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 18 December 2014

Loyalties tested by fire

Fire weather ... That’s what the treecats call those rare seasons when the slightest spark can set aflame the the vast green reaches they call home.

Teenager Stephanie Harrington rapidly learns just how deadly those fires can be. Guided by her treecat companion, Lionheart, Stephanie and her good friend Kari Zivonik venture into the heart of a raging inferno to rescue twin treecats put at risk by human carelessness. Only the trio’s absolute trust for each other stands between them and disaster.

But Sphinx isn’t the only thing ripe for burning. Stephanie has fallen hard for new arrival to Sphinx, Anders Whittaker. When Anders vanishes without a trace, Stephanie is at the forefront of the search. Then a lightning strike sets the Copperwall Mountains aflame and as a provisional ranger she is ordered to her post.

Will Stephanie choose to honor the claims of her planet or those of her heart?

Stephanie Harrington has all the usual problems of growing up a lonely precocious teenager on a new colonised planet, but added to that, she has made first contact with a sentient alien species: the treecats. Not everyone wants treecats to be classified as sentient, however. So there is a new team of xeno-anthropologists on Sphinx to investigate to ’cats. When the team goes missing, the search is on – except that a local firestorm disrupts everyone’s plans.

More fun with treecats, as Stephanie and friends help them out when their forest burns. We also get to see her becoming more socialised with her age mates (or some of them, at least). But we’re reading this for the ’cats, right? And there are lots of good treecat scenes here.

David Weber, Jane M. Lindskold.
Treecat Wars.
Baen. 2013

Survivors searching for a home

The fires from fire season are out, but the trouble’s just beginning for the treecats.

On pioneer planet Sphinx, ruined lands and the approach of winter force the treecats of the now Landless Clan to seek new territory. They have one big problem—there’s nowhere to go. Worse, their efforts to find a new home awaken the enmity of their neighbors—a clan who’s not giving up a single branch without a fight.

Worse still, Stephanie Harrington, the treecats’ greatest advocate, is not even on the planet. She and Lionheart are off to Manticore for extensive training—and up to their ears in challenges of their own there.

Can Jessica, Anders, and the rest left behind find a way to save the treecats from themselves? Can they do it without exposing the treecats’ problems to the attention of a newly arrived group of xenoanthropologists, a group whose agenda may not be as benign as it seems?

David Weber.
On Basilisk Station.
Baen. 1993

rating : 2 : great stuff

The first in the series sets the scene, with a bit of background on Honor, and ends with the usual space battle. But before that we get lots of fascinating scenes of life aboard a starship: 'being a captain on a ship where the crew doesn't like you', 'taking command of a badly run outpost and turning it around', 'resisting corrupt pressure from above', and 'spotting the conspiracy'. A great start to the series.

David Weber.
The Honor of the Queen.
Baen. 1993

rating : 2 : great stuff

Honor's first encounter with Grayson starts off badly.

David Weber.
The Short Victorious War.
Baen. 1994

rating : 2.5 : great stuff

David Weber.
Field of Dishonor.
Baen. 1994

rating : 2 : great stuff

Apart from a short reprise of the previous book, not a space battle in sight! And no glorious victory for Honor, either. This is a 'people' book, revolving round Honor's conflict with Pavel Young. Paul Tankersley gets caught in the middle, and Honor gets trapped in a no-win situation: either let Young off scot-free with a heinous crime, or destroy her own career.

A great change of pace. We get to see what Honor's friends will risk for her, and what risks she will take for honour. A downbeat ending to the book, but at least it's not the end of the series.

David Weber.
Flag in Exile.
Baen. 1995

rating : 2 : great stuff

Another book emphasising Honor's personal conflicts, both with her political enemies and with herself, but there is a space battle here as well. A rather slow first half --- where we get to see more of Honor's life as a Steadholder, and her relationship with her Armsmen --- rising to a tremendous crescendo of personal combat, culminating in a space battle against, you guessed it, overwhelming odds.

David Weber.
Honor Among Enemies.
Baen. 1996

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 1 July 1996

So, enough of the touchy-feely 'people' books --- back to the space battles!

Honor is back in Manticoran uniform, commanding a squadron of four Q-ships: merchantmen refitted with massive armaments, but no armour, to protect shipping from pirates in Silesian space. She has been maneouvered into this position by her old enemies, Klaus Hauptman and Reginald Houseman, who hope she will be killed in action.

Lots of old friends reappear (always a bit worrying, given the high body counts in these books), in particular, PO Harkness, who is now married to a Marine! Lots of space action, lots of casualties, and a rather implausible reconciliation, as Honor tackles a secret pirate stronghold, and a covert Peep operation.

I don't feel this is one of the stronger books in the series (too many battles, not enough Honor), but still worth reading for all that, especially for the way the Peeps are shown to be honorable enemies.

David Weber.
In Enemy Hands.
Baen. 1997

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 17 August 1997

After six books of near-miraculous victories over seemingly-impossible odds, Honor Harrington finally finds herself in a battle she can't win. She has to surrender to the Peeps, and is then, despite efforts by their more honorable senior officers, sent by the Committee of Public Safety to their feared prison planet for immediate execution on trumped up charges. But one lost battle doesn't mean the war is over.

Her empathic link with Nimitz is here more of a liability than a help: it got her into the situation in the first place, as she fled from the confused emotions between White Haven and herself. And once a prisoner, she is caught up in a savage feedback loop of fear, pain, helplessness and guilt from herself, Nimitz, and her fellow prisoners.

This fraught time is leavened with some fun back at Harrison Steadholding on Grayson, as several treecat immigrants take up residence, and Honor's Beowulfan mother Allison arrives to head up a new genetic research clinic. And Grayson thought Honor was unconventional ...

There is rather too much info-dumping about battleship specs woven into the first half for my liking (but I realise that a large section of the readership enjoy this part as much as, if not more than, what I think of as the 'real' story). Things really hot up in the second half, however, with the lost battle, Honor's capture and isolation, and the subsequent events. Now we get to see how she copes with a hopeless, humiliating situation over which she has no control or influence at all. Wonderful stuff.

Warning: although In Enemy Hands does reach a satisfying conclusion of sorts, it certainly requires a sequel. (And for those of you looking for Rumors of Death, that was just the original working title of In Enemy Hands: don't worry, you haven't missed a book!)

(My rating would have been half a point higher, but for the info-dumping)

David Weber.
Echoes of Honor.
Baen. 1998

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 16 November 1998

At the end of In Enemy Hands we left Honor stranded on the prison planet Hades deep in Peep territory, with just a handful of crew and a couple of sub-light shuttles. So now all she has to do is escape. But there are a couple of problems: 300,000 other PoWs who she's determined to rescue as well, coupled with new Peep incursions that mean she can't just hijack a small ship to send for help...

After eagerly waiting so long for this, I was rather disappointed by it. Only half the book is given over to Honor's story, the rest being back in the Peep-Manticore war; but we're used to that by now (and the partitioning into 'books' makes it easy to know which bits to skip on rereading :-). Although, to be fair, not all the non-Honor bits are battles or warship specifications: the Peeps have faked Honor's execution, so everyone thinks she is dead, and the resolution of the problem of her heir is definitely interesting.

My main quibble is that the Honor part of the story seems rather uninvolved, somehow. We don't get inside her to see her feelings in the depth we are used to. And she must be feeling something. After all, she's narrowly escaped a humiliating death, seen good friends die, and is now responsible for getting the rest out of a horribly dangerous situation. And she lost her left arm in the escape to Hades, yet its loss seems to have hardly any effect on her, besides making it difficult to dress!

So, good plot progression, exciting action and battles, and it's good to see Honor back home, but let's hope the next book (just as eagerly awaited) is somewhat more involving.

David Weber.
Ashes of Victory.
Baen. 2000

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 25 April 2000

Oh dear. The infodumping and the plot structure fragmentation seem to have got totally out of hand.

We start off with a series of snapshots as Honor returns from the dead, to be met in turn by White Haven, by Protector Benjamin, by her parents, by Mike Henke, by the Queen. There are some moving moments, and some funny moments, as an embarrassed Honor comes to realise what has happened in her absence, and what people want to do for her on her return.

But this snapshot style continues throughout. In the background to start with, and ultimately in the foreground, the war rumbles on, and eventually reaches an important turning point. This is accompanied by some of the densest infodumping yet -- many chapters start off with a mere page of background, or action, or character interaction, then spiral off into detailed ship specs or tactical discussions. I know, I know: some readers want all this detail, but I see little reason why much of it couldn't be provided in technical appendices, rather than interrupting what little narrative flow there is.

So, there are some good scenes scattered between the infodumping, but very little depth. For example, Honor's choice of aide is interesting, and has a lot of potential for development, but we then only ever meet her again as one of a crowd in half a later chapter! A whole year of Honor being fitted with new prosthetics whilst coping with the rather different job the Admiralty have given her is covered in a few lightweight chapters. There is also a massively important plot development in the relationship between humans and treecats, which everyone agrees is terribly significant, but appears to have little actual impact. Having waited long and eagerly for Ashes of Victory, I found this worsening trend of lack of depth disappointing.

In summary, worth reading, but only to find out what happens.

Me, I'm waiting for her to lose her left leg. I figure that at about that point, she'll develop full telepathy with Nimitz (assuming he gets his back). Why? There's a standard bit in Celtic folklore that in order to perform great magical feats, you have to place half of your body (the left side) in the Otherworld, either symbolically or actually. The development of her link to Nimitz has been increasing on an arc very similar to the amount of cybernetic assistance she has on her body. It hasn't always been "lose a body part, get to know Nimitz better" in precise progression, I know. IIRC, the arm came after their improved empathy kicked in. It's just too bizarre that she's lost her left eye and left arm instead of anything on her right side and gotten more intimate mentally with Nimitz in a similar progression from my perspective. Either that, or I've been reading the Irish myths too much lately. :)

-- Brenda Daverin, rec.arts.sf.written, April 2000

David Weber.
War of Honor.
Baen. 2002

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 19 October 2002

Oh dear. Look, if I wanted to read a turgid history book, I'd read a turgid history book. I want to read feats of derring-do, as executed by Honor Harrington. But maybe those days are gone for good (the short stories are better in this regard).

It's several years after the events in Ashes of Victory, and the new Manticore government are delaying the peace process, because it lets them keep the war taxes, and not call an election. They are also trying to nullify Honor, and after one ploy doesn't work, they send her off to Silesia to battle the new Andermani threat, hoping she might die in the process [given the success of that ploy the last time it was tried, I'm surprised they bothered]. Meanwhile, the New Republic is getting annoyed, and they have a well-kept secret...

The plot is potentially very interesting, and leads to interesting problems. This may be the book where Honor stops being Nelson and starts being Wellington. [Ghod, I don't believe it. My spell checker doesn't recognise "Wellington", and suggests "Harrington" as a correction!] But the problem with the telling is probably easy to guess by anyone whose been keeping up with the series: even more heavy-handed politics, even more weapons specs (I used to glaze over these on re-reads; here I was glazing over on first read), even more fragmented scenes, even more jaw-jaw, and not enough action, not enough Honor. (But I'll probably get the next book, just to see what happens. Sucker.)

David Weber.
At All Costs.
Baen. 2005

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 14 November 2005

The Peeps and the Manties are back at it, hammer and tongs, and every time it looks as if there might be a chance for peace, the real bad guys throw a spanner in the works. The cost to everyone is enormous, and Honor, at least, now has something to lose.

Not quite a return to original form, but certainly a return to a plot, and to Honor being central to the book. Oodles of plot developments in her personal life, in the relationships between the two protagonist star systems, and in the politics of the neighbouring systems. There's still a lot of carefully described battle scenes: I frankly skimmed the umpteenth listing of the precise numbers of missiles that made it through each layer of the defence in each battle. And Weber must have a new orbital dynamics program: the values of the distances, velocities and accelerations seem to have gained several more significant figures. But this time it's nowhere near as turgid as the last couple of volumes.

It is a little worrying, in the year of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, to read a book called At All Costs, about a Nelson-analogue. Yet we know it isn't a completely faithful analogue, and certainly, this time, Honor finds herself in one particular situation that Nelson never did. I won't give any spoilers here, but, as I said, Honor is central to the plot again, and there are some really affecting and agonising moments (as well as a few cringingly saccharine ones), and some fateful plot developments.

David Weber.
Mission of Honor.
Baen. 2010

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 26 July 2010

The devastating space battle against Haven is a few months in the past (despite the five years that have passed in real time). With Manticore finally having the upper hand, Haven is waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it does, it's not quite what they were expecting. Meanwhile, Manticore has trouble brewing with the Sollies on another frontier. (I should have read Storm from the Shadows before reading this, as the events there are somewhat critical. But I didn't realise it was quite so central. Never mind, there seems to be enough background given here to understand the important points.)

It's intriguing to have a book with Honor playing a central role, with big space battles and mega-death, and with her not involved in any of them. Makes an interesting change. There is more plot in this than of late. Don't get me wrong, the seven-significant-figure space battle statistics are still there, but there's plenty in between too, so skimming them doesn't result in just a pamphlet remaining.

The developments come thick and fast, Honor is put through the wringer again, and it all ends on a massive cliffhanger. What next?

David Weber.
A Rising Thunder.
Baen. 2012

rating : 4.5 : passes the time
review : 18 March 2012

Oh dear. Another one of the turgid ones. The previous book finished on a cliff-hanger. This book took nearly 120 pages just to get up to that cliffhanger again! And the rest of it feels like treading water: there are a few major political changes, and a massive battle, but this all feels like passionless filler, just setting up for the next episode.

I hope that next episode is action, rather than a politics lecture.

David Weber.
The Shadow of Saganami.
Baen. 2004

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 2 July 2006

HMS Hexapuma is sent off to the Talbott Cluster, which has just voted to join the Star Kingdom of Manticore. It looks set to be a dull diplomatic mission -- indeed, it has been deliberately chosen as an easy milk run for Captain Terekhov, in his first command since his last desperate battle against the Havenites. On board are a bunch of Middies on their test cruise, including Helen Zilwicki, and their training officer is the Grayson Junior Lieutenant Abigail Hearns. Little do any of them know that this will not be the planned dull cruise, as Mesa and Manpower conspire to block Talbott's integration, by formenting terrorist resistance. The missiles eventually start to fly.

Eventually, because it takes an awful long while to get going, as we get all the background of the terrorists, the Mesan plots, the stupid Talbott politicians, and various other scenes, while the tension slowly builds. It feels more like a "history filler", showing what's going on in Talbott, than a fully fledged story in its own right. But once things hot up, it gets quite exciting (although I did skim most of the missile counts, again).

David Weber.
Storm from the Shadows.
Baen. 2009

David Weber, Eric Flint.
Crown of Slaves.
Baen. 2003

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 27 December 2003

This is the first of a promised a new series set in the Honorverse. We have already met some of the characters in Eric Flint's short stories "From the Highlands" and "Fanatic" (and, to a lesser extent, in Jane Lindskold's "Promised Land" and David Weber's "The Service of the Sword", demonstrating there is some coordination going on here!). This story builds on the background established there, particularly the fight against Manpower and its trade in genetic slavery.

The action takes place prior to the resolution of War of Honor, and concerns the High Ridge Government's high-handed and dishonest approach to its ally, Erewhon. Everyone is going to Erewhon for a big funeral, which gives the opportunity for lots of different factions to meet. Haven's super spy Victor Cachat is there to woo Erewhon; a faction of the Sollies are there on some black op; even the Masadans are there. To join this crew, along goes Anton Zilwicki, his adopted daughter Berry, and Princess Ruth. Political shenanigans and hijinks ensue.

The plot races along even faster than vintage Weber -- I didn't spot a single ship's spec, and the political lecturing is restricted to brief paragraphs, rather than full chapters. The whole plot revolves around some huge coincidences of the right people in the right place at the right time, but these do at least smooth its passage. The resolution -- the new chosen leader of the liberated planet -- is frankly ludicrous. But the whole thing is a fun breath of fresh air -- the Honorverse is back the way it should be!

David Weber, Eric Flint.
Torch of Freedom.
Baen. 2009

David Weber, ed.
More than Honor.
Baen. 1998

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 14 February 1998

Here we have 3 novellas (plus a 'technical appendix') set in the Universe of Honor Harrington, filling in some back-story for us; Honor herself does not appear in any of the stories.

Contents

A Beautiful Friendship. 1998
The 11-year-old Stephanie Harrington solves the problem of the disappearing celery, and so makes First Contact with the Sphinxian treecats.

We know from a short scene in one of the Honor novels that it was one of Honor's own ancestors who made First Contact; here we get the whole story. Interestingly, for the first time we get to see some of the events described from the PoV of a treecat, and so find out how intelligent they truly are, something they have been at pains to hide from the 'two-legs'.

David Drake. A Grand Tour. 1998
A group of Manticoran archaeologists, digging on Hope, a Solarian League planet, have a run-in with a Peep cruiser, during the early days of the war.

I found this the weakest of the three stories, for two reasons. Firstly, it is a story that could have been set almost anywhere, and the only thing that made it set in the Honor Harrington Universe was the names of various characters. So we had good competent officers, called Manticorans, versus sloppy incompetents, called Peeps. Secondly, I felt it tried to pack in too much plot -- easily a whole novel's worth -- of archaeology of an extinct alien civilisation, poker, and space battles. Everything just hares along, and everything is just too implausibly easy, because there is no time to have any setbacks.

S. M. Stirling. A Whiff of Grapeshot. 1998
How Admiral Esther McQueen saved the Committee of Public Safety on Haven during the Leveler riots.

At just over 40 pages this is the shortest of the three stories (the others are each over 100 pages). It fills in a few of the details of an event we have heard about only second or third hand, and helps flesh out the character of McQueen a little. It is told in a spare style that could almost be Weber himself writing.

The Universe of Honor Harrington. 1998
A summary of the various politics, history and geography, as well as battleship design. All the info-dumping in one place.

David Weber, ed.
Worlds of Honor.
Baen. 1999

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 21 March 1999

Five more stories set in the Universe of Honor Harrington, filling in yet more back-story for us; Honor herself appears in one of the stories.

After the disappointment of the previous collection, which had only one really good story, I had resolved to wait for this one to come out in paperback. My resolve weakened when I read the dust jacket's summaries, and I'm glad it did. The first four of these stories are good enough to make it worth the hardback price, to me at least. (But if you don't know what these are the back-story of, go and read the novels first.) There has obviously been a lot of effort put into consistency between the different authors, since some of the stories refer to events in the others. Also, the styles match very well (the style provides the all-important 'feel' of a shared universe, and too-different a style is jarring).

Contents

Linda Evans. The Stray. 1999
It's 18 months since Stephanie Harrington was adopted by Climbs Quickly (which story is told in "A Beautiful Friendship"). Dr Scott MacDallan has himself since been adopted, and suspects the treecats of great intelligence. That suspicion is confirmed when a half-starved, desperate 'cat appears on his doorstep, for help.

More scenes from the PoV of the 'cats, more about their intelligence, and more about their strategy in dealing with the humans.

What Price Dreams?. 1999
Crown Princess Adrienne becomes the first member of the Manticoran Royal Family to be adopted by a treecat, Seeker of Dreams, under rather dramatic circumstances.

The action takes place about 100 years after the first adoption. We learn that treecats who bond with the much shorter-lived humans are sacrificing about half their lives because of it. We also learn that the treecats' name for Stephanie Harrington is "Death Fang's Bane". [This leads to the slightly unfortunate construction the central nest of Death Fang's Bane's Clan's range. Just because it is possible to do this sort of thing in English, doesn't necessarily mean is should be done.]

Jane M. Lindskold. Queen's Gambit. 1999
The circumstances surrounding Queen Elizabeth III's accession to the throne of Manticore, and the tough decisions she has to make.

Now that humans have prolong, the 'cats aren't sacrificing half their lives any more. In fact, now it is the humans who may have a problem. [Does prolong work on 'cats?] There is a good throwaway line where Mike Henke refers to her Academy roommate.

The Hard Way Home. 1999
Lieutenant Commander Honor Harrington, executive officer of the Broadsword, finds herself on a rescue mission after an avalanche on Gryphon, hampered by a hostile senior officer.

Multiple PoVs mean we don't get to see that much of Honor, but we do learn a lot about Susan Hibson's background.

Roland J. Green. Deck Load Strike. 1999
Manticore and Peep 'military advisors' clash on Silvestria.

This is another one of those stories that I would classify as not truly being in the shared world. Certainly, it is integrated rather better than was "A Grand Tour", but my acid test is, if the references to the shared world were to be removed, or changed to a different universe, would the story change in any essential way? Here again, the answer is 'no'. I have nothing against this particular story; I just feel a little cheated that it is not really about what it claims to be about.

David Weber, ed.
Changer of Worlds.
Baen. 2001

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 18 March 2001

Four more stories set in the Universe of Honor Harrington, filling in yet more back-story for us; Honor herself is the protagonist of one of the stories, and has a cameo in another.

This time, all the stories are definitely "Harrington Universe" stories -- even the one set on Earth out of the main thread of the action. "From the Highlands" passes my test of "would this have been a different story if the shared world reference were removed?", and is a good story as well.

Contents

Ms Midshipwoman Harrington. 2001
The story of Honor's Middie cruise, how she encounters Elvis Santino (an incident referred to in passing in Ashes of Victory), and how she saves the day for the first time
Changer of Worlds. 2001
Set between the events of Honor Among Enemies and In Enemy Hands. Just after the birth of their kits, Samantha and Nimitz go to his clan to discuss the long term future of the treecats.
Eric Flint. From the Highlands. 2001
Captain Helen Zilwicki was posthumously awarded the Parliamentary Medal of Honour for defending a convoy against a Peep attack [The Short Victorious War]. It is now ten years later, on Earth, and her widower Anton and 14-year-old daughter Helen are caught up in a rogue Peep plot to assassinate Amos Parnell, due to arrive from the SS prison planet Hades [Echoes of Honor]. When Helen is kidnapped, and his superiors will do nothing, Anton is forced request help from Countess Catherine Montaigne and her anti-slaver friends, and receives unexpected help from an idealistic young SS officer, Victor Cachat.
Nightfall. 2001
The story of Esther McQueen's coup, which feels like a couple of chapters sliced out of Ashes of Victory

David Weber, ed.
The Service of the Sword.
Baen. 2003

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 4 May 2003

Further stories set in the Universe of Honor Harrington; Honor herself appears briefly in one of the stories.

Again, all the stories are definitely "Harrington Universe" stories. The weakest of the bunch, A Ship Named Francis, which attempts a humorous note, is fortunately also the shortest. Weber's own contribution has about as much action as one of his later novels, but without the more tedious info-dumping, so it works well.

Contents

Jane M. Lindskold. Promised Land. 2003
Prince Michael is on his middie cruise, on a ship making an early ambassadorial contact with Masada. Judith, a Grayson captive on Masada, is planning a desperate escape from brutality. The two event might just precipitate the anticipated war with the Peeps.
Timothy Zahn. With One Stone. 2003
The new HMS Fearless, replaced after the Basilisk incident, is out patrolling Silesian space for pirates. Naval Intelligence requests that her tactical officer, Rafe Cardones, be placed on detached duty with them, to investigate a fearsome new variant of the grav-lance. He finds himself in a position where obeying orders will mean the destruction of Fearless.
John Ringo, Victor Mitchell. A Ship Named Francis. 2003
The Grayson Navy is expanding apace, and not everyone can quite cut the mustard. What to do with them?
John Ringo. Let's Go to Prague. 2003
Two Manticoran Sepcial Service marines decide to go to the Peep planet of Prague for some R&R. But after one meets an old flame from a previous mission, and a fleeing Peep admiral falls into their hands, their holiday gets a bit complicated.
Eric Flint. Fanatic. 2003
Oscar St Just sends Victor Cachat, a fanatical StateSec officer [first met in "From the Highlands"], to investigate the murder of a senior StateSec officer at a remote Navy outpost. But his extreme methods of investigation have a strange outcome.
The Service of the Sword. 2003
Abigail Hearns, the first ever female Grayson Navy officer, has her middie cruise on a Manticore ship just when tensions between Manticore and Grayson are building.

David Weber, ed.
In Fire Forged.
Baen. 2011

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 26 February 2011

The fifth collection of Honorverse stories, including one about Commander Harrington (set a little before On Basilisk Station). However, there are only three actual stories, plus an appendix of infodumping (nice to have it all in one place).

Contents

Jane M. Lindskold. Ruthless. 2011
A sequel to "Promised Land". Judith and her daughter Ruth are now living on Manticore. But politics follows them, and a group kidnap Ruth to get Judith to put pressure on Prince Michael. She is not sure why they think she has any influence over him, but her reaction to the demand makes her realise something about her feelings. Needless to say, the kidnappers do not get a compliant victim.
Timothy Zahn. An Act of War. 2011
Charles is a con man. The Havenites who have captured him know that, but who is he actually conning? Haven, Manticore, Sol? Does he even know himself?
"Let's Dance!". 2011
Commander Harrington's first encounter with The Ballroom threatens to cost her her career.
Andy Presby. An Introduction to Modern Starship Armor Design. 2011
tl;dr

David Weber, ed.
Beginnings.
Baen. 2013

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 20 July 2013

The sixth collection of Honorverse stories, with the theme of “beginnings”, that is, the story of various firsts, filling in various bits of backstory. We've had a few beginings before, such as What Price Dreams?, with first member of the Manticoran Royal Family to be adopted by a treecat; stories with treecats are the best. Here we have stories from the start of the Solarian League, up to the “present day” of the series.

Contents

Charles E. Gannon. By the Book. 2013
A story of the early days of the Solarian League, with a lot of very heavy-handed politics.
Timothy Zahn. A Call to Arms. 2013
The story of a young officer in the early days of the Manticoran Navy.
Beauty and the Beast. 2013
How Honor's parents met on Beowulf, with a lot of post hoc foreshadowing.
Best Laid Plans. 2013
How Honor and Nimitz met.
Joelle Presby. Obligated Service. 2013
Claire Bedlam Lecroix is the first midshipwoman from Burdette Steading, and does not intend to stay in the Grayson Navy for long.

David Weber, John Ringo.
March Upcountry.
Baen. 2001

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 10 July 2003

Prince Roger MacClintock is a brat -- affected, whining, and obnoxious. He doesn't really want to be, but there's really nothing else for him to do, as third in line to the throne, and strangely sidelined by his Empress mother. Finally, she sends him off to a routine engagement on a distant planet. But on the way, someone attempts to blow up his ship, leaving him and his company of Marine bodyguards stranded on a hostile planet. They must battle their way across it, through hostile natives and even more hostile jungle, to the small spaceport to get home. Will the brattish Prince pull through?

Of course he will. In a typical coming-of-age tale, Roger gradually gains the respect of the Marines as they slog across the planet, their high-tech weaponry gradually failing in the jungle heat, making alliances with some of the war-like natives, and in typical Weber and Ringo style, cutting bloody swathes through others. The plot device of failing weaponry with no resupply allows the use of swords, while keeping some of the big guns in reserve for use when the going gets really tough. The no resupply problem might be thought to result in severely depleted marine numbers, too, but the other plot device of nano-tech enhanced soldiers allows (most of) them to recover from their wounds.

This is the first of a trilogy. There is enough closure to make a reasonably satisfying stand-alone story -- but the party are still well short of their goal when the book finishes. Roger has stopped being too much of a brat by the end -- so I suspect the remaining books will focus more on the battles, and possibly the politics that landed them in this predicament in the first place.

David Weber, John Ringo.
March to the Sea.
Baen. 2001

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 27 July 2003

Very much the middle of a trilogy feel to it, this book has Prince Roger and his dwindling company of Marines slogging across the continient to reach the sea, battling ever larger groups of native barbarians, and training their own armies of native soldiers. (Certainly no Prime Directive here; in fact, we get a short diatribe against the very idea.) More battles, more guns, and a bit of ship-building.

David Weber, John Ringo.
March to the Stars.
Baen. 2003

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 23 May 2004

Prince Roger and his Marines fight their way across the ocean, across another continent, and into the spaceport, meeting new friends, and losing old ones, along the way.

I don't know if a fourth book is planned, but this series is definitely not a trilogy. There is closure of a sort at the end here, but by no means a conclusion to the overall story. It has a more complex plot that the second book, involving human intrigue as well as alien slaughter, and the various factions are drawn well. There is a growing tendency to lecture -- one feels that, having done their research, the authors are determined to use it all (I'm thinking especially about the cult of Baal here). The action scenes are good, and varied. But if Roger keeps on maturing at the current rate, he'll be a demi-god by the next book.

David Weber, John Ringo.
We Few.
Baen. 2005

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 11 November 2006

Prince Roger and his Marines have slogged their way across the planet Marduk, fighting unimaginable hordes of bloodthirsty natives, only to discover, when they reach the assumed safety of the spaceport, that they are wanted for treason. While he has been missing, a palace coup has taken place, his brother and sister murdered, his mother the Empress in captivity, and the blame placed squarely on his shoulders. So he and his remaining followers now have a harder battle: to sneak back to earth, rescue the Empress, and defeat the traitors.

This is necessarily less bloody than the earlier books, as you can't have enormous battles against overwhelming odds fought covertly. So instead, Roger and his crew start a restaurant. It does all end with a climactic battle, of course. However, that's probably its main weakness. The space part of battle is described in loving detail. But we don't care about that battle, only its outcome, because we haven't slogged across a planet with any of its participants. We care about the parallel battle on the ground, for the palace, and that's shown in less detail. So, a good, resounding conclusion to the series (yes, there is an ending), but it would have been better if someone had taken Weber's missile pod calculator away from him while he was writing.

David Weber.
Off Armageddon Reef.
Tor. 2007