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4.0 out of 5 stars The sixth "Honorverse" anthology: five SF novellas, 21 May 2014
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This review is from: Beginnings: Worlds of Honor 6 (Honor Harrington - anthologies) (Kindle Edition)
This is the sixth collection of short stories and novellas set in David Weber's "Honorverse" Universe. It contains five novellas.

Most of the comments in this review apply equally to the Kindle and paper editions of the anthology, but the star rating is specific to the Kindle edition. An irritating flaw in the presentation took my view of the book below the threshold between five and four stars - I would probably have given a hardcopy edition of the book a five star rating.

As the title implies, all the stories in this volume represent the start of something important to the world of Admiral Honor Harrington some 2,000 years in the future.

1) "By the Book" by Charles Gannon is a space detective story set only 338 years in the future, in the early stages of the "Diaspora" of humans from Earth, and the most readily identifiable common element between Honor's universe and this story is the dating system. However, it is also a story about how the emigration of humans to many other planets became possible.

2) "A Call to Arms" by Timothy Zahn introduces the character of Travis Long, who in this novella is a lieutenant. Travis is about to get his own series, currently slated to be a trilogy: he is the central character in the "Manticore Ascendant" series in which the first book, "A Call to Duty (Manticore Ascendant)" by David Weber and Timothy Zahn is due for publication on 7th October 2014.

In this case the beginning is that of the military tradition of the Royal Manticoran Navy: "A Call to Arms" tells of Travis Long's part in the RMN's first major battle, defending against a force of mercenaries hired by the Axelrod corporation in 1543 PD (e.g 3646 AD).

3) "Beauty and the Beast" by David Weber tells the story of how Honor Harrington's parents met at medical school on Beowulf. It also introduces Honor's Uncle Jacques as a young man, and a certain brilliant student obstetrician who in future years will be head of the best natal clinic in the Manticore system, explaining why he will be a bit sensitive about anything relating to Honor Harrington's family.

As the cover illustration for the book suggests, this is not a typical "boy meets girl" romance and it's just as well for the "good guy" protagonists that Honor's dad was not always a harmless doctor.

The man and woman in the centre of the cover illustration are Honor's future father and mother. It might be a spoiler to list which aspects of the picture accurately reflect a scene from "Beauty and the Beast" and which are artistic licence, but it's hardly a spoiler, and certainly won't be a surprise to anyone who has read any of the other "Honorverse" anthologies, to say that this is an action story.

4) "The Best Laid Plans" by David Weber tells of the beginning of the relationship between the 13-year-old Honor Harrington and the treecat "Laughs Brightly" who she calls Nimitz and how a lot of best laid plans were disturbed when they met.

5) "Obligated Service" by Joelle Presby tells the story of the begining of the naval career of Claire Lecriox, one of the first Grayson women to serve as an officer in her planet's navy.

A rather irritating flaw in the way the kindle version of this book was constructed is that it does not have a table of contents with the links which would have enabled the reader to jump straight to a particular story. I did an awful lot of scrolling back and forward using the buttons on the side of the kindle when reading this. That was the main reason I did not give this kindle product five stars.

One or two of the stories in this book require some fairly large-scale suspension of disbelief, particlarly on the power of a psychic link between two of the characters. And to fully appreciate certain ironies and implications of some the stories you have to have read and retained in your memory some of the other books in the Honorverse. For example, in one of the stories in this book, a character gives a well argued assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the Mesan bad guys in the story, which appears totally reasonable based on the information he has, but is actually completely off-beam.

This provided the explanation for a remark in a conversation important enough to be repeated in two books set several decades later, when the truth about Mesa finally starts to come out: one of the crumbs of confort with which the head of the Mesan Alignment consoles himself about the security breach is how much he would have liked to see the expression on that character's face when he learned the truth.

Overall I enjoyed reading these stories greatly and can recommend them. One of the better "Honorverse" anthologies.
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