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3.8 out of 5 stars17
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 18 July 2013
This book is, imho, a must for a Honoverse fan. It starts with a short story, covering roughly the years before the first Haven war: the beginings of Haven's expansion, King Roger's eforts to increase the size of the navy, the problems involved, etc. It includes a long list of characters, with a short background for each, which very handy, considering the large number of charaters the series has; I often get lost trying to figure out who's who! It has an extensive description (including color plates) of the navies (ships and history) of Manticore and Grayson, as well as historical background on both planets.

All in all, an excelent purchase, and one I'll probably often use as reference for rest of the books. My only criticism is that there was almost nothing on Haven; the book is dedicated to Manticore and Grayson. Perhaps a future book?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 October 2013
"House of Steel" is part of the "Honorverse" naval science fiction series created by David Weber and set about 2000 years in the future.

"House of Steel" has two components: the first 183 pages of the book comprise the novella "I will build my house of steel" by David Weber himself. This is mostly set during the 56 years preceding the events of the first book of the series and explains the backstory to that novel and to the war between two spacefaring nations, Manticore and Haven, which dominates the first eleven books of the "Honorverse" series.

The second component, of this book, "The Honorverse Companion," written largely by a group of science fiction fans who call themseles "BuNine" but with some more material from Weber himself, is a reference guide to the worlds, people and navies of the "good guys" in the story, Manticore and Grayson. It covers the period of the first dozen or so novels, up to the middle of "At All Costs."

As the Honor Harrington stories work best when read in sequence, I would usually advise potential readers new to the series to start with the first novel published, which is "On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington)." However, "House of Steel" would also be a possible starting point, given the way the novella brilliantly explains the background to the situation Honor faces at the start of the series. Early in the first novel, "On Basilisk Station" she finds herself acting commander of that station and charged to carry out duties which would have been taxing for a battlecruiser squadron, when all she has is one elderly light cruiser with totally unsuitable armament.

However, if you do read this book first, or before you have read most of the others, be aware that the "political history" data and the "Who's who" potted biographies in the Honorverse companion contain some potential "spoilers" for the books up to and including "At All Costs." The reference works appear to have been "published" in April 1921 Post Diaspora (e.g. April 4024 Anno Domini) and to be up to date as of shortly after the Battle of Monica (which happens in February of that year) and shortly before the Battle of Manticore. Consequently some of the information in the "History" chapters and in the biographical notes give away the results of certain battles, and tell you whether many of the key characters survived them, up to about two-thirds of the way through the book "At All Costs."

The novella "I will build my house of steel" is mostly about King Roger III of Manticore, the father of Queen Elizabeth III who occupies the throne of Manticore during most of the Honorverse novels. The titles of the story and the book are taken from a conversation at the start of the novel when the then Crown Prince Roger mentions the story of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf to another character, and adds that if he'd been the third little pig he'd have preferred an even stronger material than brick: "I think steel would do very nicely." The line is used again on the last page of the novella and I'm not going to spoil it by explaining how.

As hinted above, the first eleven "Honor Harrington books, despite the futuristic setting, exhibit strong parallels with Nelson's navy. Assumed technology in the stories to this point imposed constraints on space navy officers similar to those which the technology of fighting sail imposed on wet navy officers two hundred years ago. Similarly, the galactic situation in the novels up to the eleventh book. "At All Costs" had marked similarities to the strategic and political situation in Europe at the time of the French revolutionary wars. However, particularly after the gigantic battle at the end of that book which roughly corresponds to Trafalgar, the story has started to go in a wholly different direction.

This divergence applies to both the political diplomatic storyline and to naval technology. For the first few books there were close parallels for the characters, nations and ship classes with those in C.S. Forester's "Hornblower" series or the real history of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. E.g. Manticore was Britain, Haven was France, Honor Harrington was a mix of Horatio Nelson and Horatio Hornblower, Rob S. Pierre was Robespierre, the Committee of Public Safety was the Committee of Public Safety, "ships of the wall" were ships of the line with superdreadnaughts as first rates, etc, etc. One book, Echoes of Honour (Honorverse) was even an almost exact parallel to the Hornblower book Flying Colours.

However, as the story diverges from that of the Napoleonic wars, so the parallels with 20th century naval warfare or with space battle games like "Starfire" (of which Weber was one of the creators) have become stronger than those with the age of fighting sail. First he brought in Q-Ships, then spaceships which correspond to aircraft and carriers, and a Mesan ship type introduced in "Mission of Honor" could be seen as equivalent to submarines.

Before the tensions between Manticore and the Solarian Republic led to actual hostilities, those tensions could be seen as equivalent within Nelson-era parallels as imposing similar strategic considerations on the Manticoran navy to those which the threat of war with the USA (which, of course, eventually happened as the war of 1812) had on the British Royal Navy prior to 1812. But the Solarian Republic in this story is so much more relatively huge, populous and wealthy relative to Manticore than the infant United States was in 1812 relative to the British Empire, that the Nelson era parallels are no longer helpful.

Note that because "The Honorverse Companion" describes the situation in 1921 Post Diaspora (4024 AD), this shift from the "Nelson v Napoleon In Space" storyline to the "Mesan Alignment" storyline has not yet happened at the point in Honorverse history which this reference material has reached. Hence this reference book does not cover the challenges and situations which arise in books subsequent to "At All Costs" such as "A Rising Thunder."

If you are trying to work out in what order to read the "Honorverse" books, here is a description of the sequence of the first 17 novels. The main sequence of thirteen novels to date follows the "big picture" and the career of Honor Harrington herself, and consists of

1) On Basilisk Station
2) The Honor of the Queen
3) The Short Victorious War
4) Field of Dishonour
5) Flag in Exile
6) Honor among Enemies
7) In Enemy Hands
8) Echoes of Honor
9) Ashes of Victory
10) War of Honor
11) At All Costs
12) Mission of Honor
13) A Rising Thunder

The author's website lists the first twelve novels above as the "Honor Harrington" books and then describes all subsequent novels in the same universe including "A Rising Thunder" as "Honorverse" books. I presume this is because, although she is still a major character, Honor herself does not dominate this book to the extent she does most of the first twelve listed above.

The "Torch" or anti-slavery sequence (with Eric Flint as co-author) focusses on the battle for freedom of people who have been held in slavery by "Manpower," which at first is seen as a huge and corrupt company corresponding to the slave trader interests in Britain and America some two hundred years ago. The books with this focus are

(i) Crown of Slaves (set at about the same time as "War of Honor"), and
(ii) Torch of Freedom (set at about the same time as "At All Costs").

The "Shadow" or Talbot Quadrant sequence consists of three books which focus on that area of the Galaxy, and particularly on the rapidly worsening crisis between Honor Harrington's home star nation of Manticore and the Solarian republic. The books to date in this sub-series are

(a) The Shadow of Saganami (overlaps the 1st half of "At All Costs"), and
(b) Storm from the Shadows (overlaps "At All Costs" but starts and finishes later.)
(c) Shadow of Freedom (set at about the same time as "A Rising Thunder")

According to David Weber's website, he is collaborating with Eric Flint to write another Honorverse book which will have a title influenced by Shakespeare's Macbeth: assuming this isn't an April Fool for next year this can now be pre-ordered from Amazon and will come out on 1st April 2014 under the title, "Cauldron of Ghosts." (His website suggested that this was the original planned title but that he had considered changing this to "Cauldron Boil, Cauldron Bubble" - presumably he decided not to.)

"Mission of Honor" pulled the threads together again, beginning shortly after the end of "Storm from the Shadows" and taking forward the characters and stories from that book, "At All Costs" and "Torch of Freedom." As explained above, "A Rising Thunder" then carries the story on after "Mission of Honor."

I ought for completeness to add that besides the volumes listed above there are several collections in the "Worlds of Honor" series of short stories by Weber and co-authors set in the same universe, and featuring a range of characters, some from the main series of books, others new.

One of these short stories was extended to form the first of a new Honorverse series for young adults, with the eponymous novel "A Beautiful Friendship" released in October 2011. It features Stephanie Harrington, a member of an earlier generation of Honor Harrington's family, who lived four or five hundred years before Honor and in 1518 PD (3618 AD) became the first human to be "adopted" by a "Treecat," a member of the planet Sphinx's native intelligent species. The Treecats are telepaths among themselves and can read human emotions, and some of them form a lifelong telepathic bond with humans: for example Honor Harrington has been adopted by a treecat called Nimitz.

At the time of writing this review the second book and third books in this prequel series, sometimes called the "Star Kingdom of Manticore" series (SKM) has been published, and are called "Fire Season (Star Kingdom)" and "Treecat wars."

Some of the information in this book is very relevant to the Stephanie Harrington series, such as a chapter on treecats. We also get one intriguing hint, which doesn't really count as a spoiler, about Stephanie's future - the chapter on treecats refers to her as DAME Stephanie Harrington so at some stage she is going to be knighted.

With regard to the "Mesan Alignment" story arc which follows on from the point in Honorverse history to which "The Honorverse companion" takes you:

The best way I can think of to give a potentially interested reader a hint to help you decide whether you want to read about these guys, without spoiling the story, is to say that the Mesan leader Albrecht Detweiler is what you might get by combining

* Dr Soong from Star Trek Enterprise but without the scruples,

* the rulers of Lois McMaster Bujold's Cetaganda but without the humour, and

* the arch-villian from the James Bond stories, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, without the cat. Honor and some of her friends are the ones with cats - or rather treecats - in this series.

I can recommend this book. My biggest concern about David Weber is that he has so many projects on the go: he says on his own website that

"I have more stories I want to tell than I have time in which to tell them."

He quite rightly adds that this is a better problem than the reverse. At the moment he is working on or considering books in no fewer than eight different series. These are

1) the Honorverse (with sub-series set in various quadrants and different centuries),
2) the Multiverse series which begins with "Hell's Gate" although this one is stalled for the moment while he works on other things,
3) the Bahzell Bahnahkson/War God series in which book four "War Maid's choice" has just come out and there will be at least one more,
4) The Safehold/Nimue Alban series which begins with Off Armageddon Reef); the most recent in this series was "Midst Toil and Tribulation" and the next one will be "Like a mighty army" due February 2014.
5) The Prince Roger/Empire of Man series in which a prequel about the founding of the empire, "Empire of Man" is due for release in February 2014
6) The Dahak trilogy which he would like to expand to five books by adding a prequel to the currently first book "Mutineer's Moon" and a sequel to the third one, "Heirs of Empire."
7) Dave Weber would also like to write a couple of additional books in the "In Fury Born" universe, and
8) His editor has asked him to consider extending the book "Out of the Dark" to a series.

I shall look forward to reading most of these but I won't be holding my breath as he's obviously got enough on the go to keep him busy for decades!
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on 17 June 2013
i thought it was a very well written explanation of the beginnings of the RMN as later used to great effexct by Honor Harrington.
The encyclopaedia of the back stories is also good fun for a dip into, however should not be read in one go as it would bring on brain overload
i would recommend this to any who wants to begin reading "mil sci-fi".and to anyone who is conversant with the "Honorverse"
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on 27 April 2014

Love the content - good story and excellent reference to the Honorverse (albeit already out of date).

However, and it is a big 'however' the Kindle edition is seriously flawed. The one essential in any reference book is good quality navigation - eg, tables of contents, references and index: the Kindle edition has none of these.
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on 9 October 2013
I wanted information on the Star Empire of Manticore. This gives it. Astrographics, history and ship designs. The centre section with colour plates showing uniforms, Starship livery and insignia was an unexpected bonus.
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on 20 August 2013
The actual novella at the beginning of the book is a good prequel to the on-going Honor stories, but it was a bit disappointing that there was not another novella after it, the rest of the book was just short bits about the ships and there classes, about different people, things and places all of which we learnt through reading the books in the series, if you like tec data etc this would be a good book to have, but I personally found it boring to wade through. This would have been better if it had had another story about the Wintons instead
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on 26 May 2013
This book gives a much appreciated background to Queen Elizabeth III, but to the various references to King Roger III in the assorted Honorverse books by David Weber and others. As for the reference section and background on the main characters in the books (although slightly out of date at time of print - attack my Mesa Allignment) itg jnever-the-less still gave vital information on these characters and information that some had passed on that were not referenced else where.
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on 14 October 2014
Honorverse geek out, with more background material than you can shake a treecat at. Worth a look if you are a fan of the long running series, otherwise go start reading On Basilisk Station as you have a lot of catching up to do.
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on 19 May 2013
good read filled in some of the time line within the overall storyline. Like for instanse who actualy started the rebuild and how they get taken out leaving a hoped for hiccup that finds their way of life changed.
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on 8 September 2014
as I have already read most of the honor Harrington books, this was a bit of a let down. I think that if you had read only two or three it would have been of a greater interest.
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