40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
"On Basilisk Station" is the first book in a truly wonderful space opera series set some three thousand years in the future and featuring David Weber's best fictional heroine, "Honor Harrington." The books are best read in sequence and I strongly recommend that you start with this one.
Despite the futuristic setting, there are strong parallels with Nelson's navy. The assumed technology in the Honor Harrington stories imposes constraints on space navy officers similar to those which the technology of fighting sail imposed on wet navy officers two hundred years ago. Aand the galactic situation in the novels contains strong similarities to the strategic and political situation in European history at the time of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.
This seems to be quite deliberate: a number of thinly veiled (and amusing) hints in the books indicate that they are to some extent a tribute to C.S. Forester, while the main heroine of the books, Honor Harrington, appears to owe more than a little to C.S. Forester's character "Horatio Hornblower."
In this first book of the series, the newly promoted Commander Honor Harrington takes up her first significant command as captain of the old light cruiser "H.M.S. Fearless" which has just been rebuilt with a very unusual armament.
Honor Harrington comes from a middle-class family with no naval tradition - both her parents are doctors - and has worked her way up the officer ranks of the navy of the Star Kingdom of Manticore on pure ability with no influential family friends to support her. At times it seems that her only friend in the navy is her "Treecat" Nimitz.
Treecats are six-legged creatures similar in size and shape to terran cats, who are fully telepathic among themselves and empaths with humans - e.g. they can read a human's emotions and sometimes form a unique bond with a specific human within which the exchange of emotions is two-way. Some people make the mistake of assuming that Nimitz is just Honor's pet cat: it will become clear during the series just how much more than that he is.
After a short spell with the fleet, HMS Fearless is assigned to Basilisk station. The Senior officer on the station turns out to be an enemy of Honor's going back to their time at Naval academy, and promptly takes his ship back home for repairs leaving her with orders to look after the Basilisk system and the completely inadequate force of one cruiser with which to do so.
As if that were not bad enough, a powerful and unfriendly neighbouring star nation, the "People's Republic of Haven" is casting greedy eyes at Basilisk and looking for an opportunity to grab the system.
This is a really clever story with wonderful and believable characters, brilliantly described space battles, and a well crafted set of explanations of how the tactical situations which the characters find themselves in relate both to the technology their ships use and the political dynamics which set up the conflicts they find themselves in. Because this is the first book of the series Dave Weber has to devote a fair amount of time to explaining the how faster than light travel and space weapons work in the series, but the explanations are reasonably interesting, internally consistent, and not too hard to follow.
Many people read Weber for the space battles, and this book scores very highly here. In some of the later books of the series when describing major fleet battles, Dave Weber somtimes writes a bit too much like the wargame designer he once was, but he is superb when describing single-ship or small unit actions and never better than in "On Basilisk Station."
If you like this book, you will want to read the rest of the series. At the time of writing there are thirteen full length novels and four short story collections in the "Honorverse" as the fictional galaxy in which these stories are set is sometimes known. The main series which tells the story of Honor Harrington herself currently runs to eleven novels; in order these are
On Basilisk Station
The Honor of the Queen
The Short Victorious War
Field of Dishonour
Flag in Exile
Honor among Enemies
In Enemy Hands
Echoes of Honor
Ashes of Victory
War of Honor
At All Costs
The four collections of short stories set in the same universe, not all of which feature Honor Harrington herself, are
Worlds of Honor
Worlds of Honor II: More than Honor
Worlds of Honor III: Changer of Worlds
Worlds of Honor IV: The Service of the Sword
The two spin-off novels are "Crown of Slaves" (with Eric Flint) which is a story of espionage and intrigue featuring a number of characters first introduced in earlier Honor Harrington books or short stories, and "The Shadow of Saganami" which is a kind of "next generation" novel featuring a number of younger officers in the navies of Manticore and her ally Grayson.
For amusement, if you want to try to look for the parallels to nations and individuals from the French revolutionary period and the Hornblower books, one possible translation would be:
People's Republic of Haven = Revolutionary France
Star Kingdom of Manticore = Great Britain
Gryphon = Scotland
Prime Minister Alan Summervale = Pitt the Younger
Hamish Alexander, later Earl White Haven = Admiral Edward Pellew
Honor Harrington = Horatio Hornblower
Alistair McKeon = William Bush
Crown loyalists and Centrists = Tory supporters of Pitt
Conservative Association = isolationist/hardline High Tories
New Kiev Liberals = Whig Oligarchists
Progressives and traditional liberals = Whig radicals
Anderman Empire = Kingdom of Prussia
Silesia = Poland
Solarian republic = United States of America
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2011
On Basilisk Station is the first book in the Honor Harrington series, a series set in the 'Honorverse' that currently runs to over a dozen books that include the main series, spin off series and short collections, as well as a forthcoming young adult novel. David Weber is the author behind these books and writes at an astonishing pace. I've had On Basilisk Station sitting on my to-read stack for a while but after attending Eastercon in April and hearing Weber talk so enthusiastically about everything, and the fact that he came across as such a genuinely nice guy, I really wanted to read one of his books, and this was the one I choose.
I have read a previous novel by Weber, Out of the Dark, but it's the Honor Harrington books and the Safehold series that he is the most well known for and I wanted to see exactly what all the fuss was about. I was expecting a pretty standard military SF romp with a notable lead character, but I found a novel that was so much more than the normal offerings of the genre and had hints of Space Opera mixed in with the Military SF. In short, I very much enjoyed On Basilisk Station!
Honor Harrington is about to take command of her new ship, the HMS Fearless, but as she arrives she finds that the higher ranks of the Royal Manticoran Navy have decided that Fearless is going to be stripped of the majority of her standard weaponry to be replaced with new technology in order to test its effectiveness. With a new ship and crew to command Harrington shows that, during the RMN war games, the light cruiser can destroy even a big ship if they are unaware of the weaponry, but once discovered Fearless suffers defeat after defeat and is unable to employ her weaponry at all. With the disgrace of loss affecting the morale of the crew Fearless and Honor are sent to Basilisk Station, an assignment viewed as banishment, the worst thing they could possibly receive. And when they arrive Honor discovers an old academy foe as the officer in command, one quick to set her up for a fall by dumping the contradictory orders on her and her ship before returning to Manticore for an 'urgent refit'.
Honor Harrington is left in an awkward situation, one where she is alone to protect a vital junction system for the RMN, although this is not the way many look at Basilisk Station. With Medusa, the system's inhabited planet, and the very busy trade routes through the system to check, Honor refuses to take the fall and instead follows all orders to the letter becoming extremely effective at what needs to be done. Gone are the days that Basilisk Station and Medusa are left to their own devices with a token guard, and this can only mean that trouble is stirring...
One of the first things that comes across in On Basilisk Station is the setting that Weber has created. He's effectively built a galaxy from scratch, populated it with differing societies each with their own ideals and governments. What's more impressive is that he's then switched the focus to one of these societies, that of Manticore, and built it from the ground up to include pretty much everything you would expect. It's a marvellous feeling to start reading a novel to find the setting so vividly realised, so thoroughly detailed, and just so damn real. Of course, this does mean some info-dumping is present, but the end result is more than worth these sections and, in truth, I rather enjoyed them!
Character-wise there are really no issues to report. Honor is a very good leading protagonist, one that is well fleshed out during this story and a very interesting character to read about. At times she does come across as a little bit of a know-it-all, but it's all part of the tale and her character, although I would have liked to have seen a few more examples of her struggling with decisions and actions. One of my favourite parts of On Basilisk Station was the interaction between Honor and her First Office, McKeon. There's tension from the beginning between these two due to Honor receiving command of Fearless, something McKeon believes he should have had, and it's from this initial encounter that their relationship plays out. Weber does a great job at portraying the tension and lack of action that arises from McKeon's feelings towards Honor, but it plays out plausibly and is resolved in an excellent fashion. There are a myriad of other characters to enjoy following throughout the story too, and Weber brings even the smallest of parts to life which adds much to the novel.
As far as the story goes, I found that very entertaining. While the initial chapters were all about introducing the characters and showing Fearless taking part in the military games, once the set up was done and the events switched to Basilisk Station and the Medusa system things got a lot more interesting. Weber manages to do a lot in a relatively short amount of pages, but the events are interesting and the way that Honor and those around her react to them even more so. I must admit that I was starting to wonder where exactly the story was going, but little hints and tips scattered throughout the novel suddenly came together and I went from scratching my head to having a big smile on my face. Weber manages to string you along with his story-telling prowess and before you know it you're knee deep in action and grinning from ear to ear.
I'll be honest - I didn't really know what to expect from On Basilisk Station so I headed in with no expectations and was completely blown away. My worry now is whether or not the next book in the series can live up to the expectations I now have because of this novel. Here's crossing my fingers...
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2012
This is a bit of an oddball series. Weber has chosen to base his character on Hornblower and the sci-Fi closely mimics that period. Sadly Weber goes to great lengths to shoe horn in reasons why the space ships have sails and tend to fire broadsides. He goes through hoops to make it seem rational but often derails the story and its impetus to do so. Sci-Fi always has a bit of techno speak and often introduces future tech that is for obvious reasons fantastical in the honorverse though it often hamstrings the flow of the book and is quite boring to read. I can see why people have given up on this book after the first 100 pages or so as it can be tedious to get through in places. Having said all that once all the blathering lessens a decent old fashioned space romp reveals itself. It has a kind of "Astounding Tales" from the 50's feel to it with strong jawed heroes battling hight odds against stronger opponents. I enjoyed it enough to give the second book ago anyway. One warning I should give though is that you can tell that Weber has fairly strong right wing views and I would be very surprised if he is not on the far right of the republican party in his political views. This can be a bit grating at times if you are a Liberal or Labour voter from the UK especially has the descriptions of how politics work are a tad simplistic.
on 1 June 2013
I got this book as a free Kindle download as I vaguely remembered an old boyfriend being a big fan of this series. The concept sounded like something I would enjoy - basically naval battles in space with a female protagonist - and did I mention it was free?
I didn't expect this to be a sci-fi version of Patrick O'Brien (Oh, Space Captain Aubrey, how awesome that would be!), but rather a boys-own type of military adventure, and on that basis I wasn't disappointed. Honor may be female, but in the future gender equality seems to be the norm, so her sex isn't really an issue. In fact, she could have been written as a male character, as her personality is pretty bland and two-dimensional throughout (not saying that men have no personalities, just that Honor is such a sketchy character she could be male, female or alien and it wouldn't make much difference).
The plot is pretty much what I expected. Plucky young commander upsets some of the stuffy top brass, so she's given a dead-end posting. However, due to her guts and determination, she manages to win the loyalty of her crew, restore the reputation of the empire, thwart an old enemy, and foil a dastardly plot by Johnny Foreigner. Unfortunately, what could be a ripping (if unoriginal) yarn, is spoilt by the fact that it's just so boring.
There are pages of exposition. The science behind the spaceships seems superficially (and to my very unscientific brain) to be quite plausible, but it's obviously very contrived to ensure that space battles work the same way as Napoleonic-era naval battles. There is very little action until the end, with the characters spending most of their time in meetings. Also, in my Kindle edition, there are quite a few formatting errors where there is no spacing between the end of one scene and the beginning of the next - very confusing when the viewpoint switches as much as it does in this book!
Honor is also just too damn perfect. She is the loyal captain through and through, never once letting her personal feelings show or affect her decisions. She manages to win over her crew and get them working efficiently, she is tough-but-fair, always professional... at times it felt like I was reading some awful right-wing management training material (and yep, the author makes it pretty clear where his political tendencies lie).
The story does pick up toward the end, when the rather far-fetched plot of the Haven empire is uncovered, the final space battle is pretty well done (although the rapidly switching viewpoints again are a bit disorientating), and the book finally feels like it's got into its stride. If the following books in the series focus more on action and less on management meetings they might be quite fun, but as it stands this book was more of a chore than an Honor to read (sorry!).
on 19 December 2011
C. S. Forrester meets Poul Anderson in David Weber's very first "Honorverse" novel, "On Basilisk Station", which remains one of the most compelling in Weber's popular space opera series, replete with naval battles as riveting as those in Forrester's Hornblower saga, and political intrigue as complex as Anderson's Technic space opera. A young Royal Manticoran Navy commander, Honor Harrington, must contend with a skeptical crew, a self-doubting first officer, Lieutenant Commander Alastair McKean, and potentially bitter naval politics when she assumes command of the elderly cruiser Fearless. Newly refitted with a brand new weapon, Fearless becomes the war games target of other Manticoran warships, and earns the dubious honor of being assigned to remote Basilisk Station. There Harrington is confronted with a native uprising on Medusa, the planet nearest to Basilisk Station, and political intrigue with diplomats and soldiers from the expansionist Republic of Haven, intent on adding Medusa to its empire, even at the risk of waging war with the Star Kingdom of Manticore. This is an excellent blend of military/technical writing combined with fine character development, of which McKean - who will figure prominently elsewhere in the series, along with most of Fearless's officers - is by far the best example. I hadn't read "On Basilisk Station" in years and was surprised with Weber's very good prose, character development and plotting, which, alas, isn't nearly as refined in some of his most recent "Honoverse" novels. Regardless, "On Basilisk Station" is an excellent introduction to the "Honorverse" and well worth noting for fans of military science fiction, as well as space opera.
on 7 September 2014
Basilisk Station introduces the socio-political and socio-economic conditions of the environment in which the events, decisions and actions take place. The described richness of the visual space and the propensity towards the spectacle of action, etc., the obvious tendency towards story, and story whereby the science fiction aspects very much conform to that recommended by John Truby, this series of books that began almost a quarter of a century ago and now boasts a very solid fan base, would seem to be ripe for development as movies and/or a sequence of miniseries. To my mind this is unlikely, due to too much of the audience value of these books being held within swathes of exposition that cannot be transferred to other media. Granted, this way of writing does make it much less difficult for the writer -- David Weber, in this instance -- to generate their word count. However, it does ensure that these titles will never hit the silver screen. The prose style is beyond workmanlike, yet is not as satisfying as Iain M. Banks, Fritz Leiber or C.J. Cherryh, to cite three examples of writers (their death where applicable, excepted) who also suffer from the self-imposed limits of their art.That disappointment aside, David Weber's Honor Harrington titles, will not disappoint those who are sufficiently satisfied by reading and imagining their own interpretations of what it is that they are reading.
on 31 May 2014
Honor Harrington is the real deal. She is the daughter of two physicians who is advancing her way up through the Royal Manticoran Navy using hard work, integrity, tactical genius and yes…people skills. Her Captaincy on the HMS Fearless starts out rocky but through trials, discovering insurgencies and surgically bolstering her crew the ending is something you will enjoy.
Was that vague enough to keep the spoiler trolls at bay? Maybe. They will really hate this. There is a huge space battle at the end of this between Fearless and a really overcompensating Havenite ship that makes slogging through four hundred and nineteen pages absolutely worth it if large novels repel (scare) you. There, challenge thrown down.
The copy I read was a free promotion paperback that I got at Starfest 2013 but I went on and got the free kindle version to make me legit. The series has quite a lot of books so you will not run out of stories anytime soon. Also the RMN, Royal Manticoran Navy, is a fan group that as far as I know is US spanning and probably has some members in other countries. They attend Cons in costume and have a good time. This book is published by BAEN and it has some editing issues often associated with self or indie. That is the only issue for me to give it a four out of five stars. I enjoyed it.
on 31 July 1997
Warning! This series can be HIGHLY adictive! Not that thefriend who sent me a copy of this book warned me, and not that I would have believed her if she had. "Military science fiction?!?" Out of respect for my friend I tried not to cringe as I began to read. To my surprise and delight I found myself quickly caught up in the lives of genuinely human characters as they puzzled their way through a complex and intriguing plot. The shear detailed immensity of the world David Weber created was staggering. He described the pain and the terror of battle in a way that made it absolutely real for me, and made individuals' accomplishments and sacrifices truly valuable. There were a couple of times when I wanted to kick the author for interupting exciting scenes to fill me in on some historical background, but I kept reading. I HAD TO. And then there was the next book. Even better! I've read the entire series so far and my only serious complaint concerns the numbers of nights that I've spent reading, and rereading, this series when I should have been sleeping.
on 9 January 2012
I found the book got better as I went along, and by the end I was glad I'd read it.
Overall, I've got mixed feelings. There was a lot of exposition towards the beginning and some felt contrived. On the other hand, a fair chunk of the exposition was about military ship technology and tactics, and I have to say this was well thought out -- far better than the average Star Trek clone. And there was a lot less contrived dialogue than most SF TV shows.
Except for the few bad apples, who are the exceptions to prove the rule, naval officers and crew in the Royal Manticore Navy are all shining examples of decency and honour. There's never any question about who the good guys are and who needs to be shot. Hopefully that gets muddied in later books as I would find that would grate after a while, but I was happy enough to go along with that for this book.
For me, the section that swung it for me to give a good rather than middling review was the ship chase and battle at the end. Tense and felt realistic.
In conclusion, this book does what it intends to very well.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I love the Honor Harrington series. I found it years ago, randomly, when I purchased a book halfway through the series. This is gripping sci-fi and I doubt it;ll be long until a film gets made.
Be careful, reading this excellent book will no doubt lead to you purchasing the rest of the series and getting lost for hours on end oblivious to the outside world!