on 1 July 2010
Lets get the bad out of the way first. This is not the best Honor Harrington by a long way. The complexity and multiple story lines of the Honorverse have really come home to roost - and not in a good way. The major flaw with this book is that in order to tie off lots of interacting plot lines between the main HH series and the 2 spinoff series - Saganami Island and Wages of Sin, events from those 2 series have to be rehashed and take up probably 1/3-1/2 of the book. Anyone who has read Storm from the Shadows or Torch of Freedom will be overfamiliar with much of the background exposition. Certainly Storm from the Shadows and Mission could have been merged and lost a few hundred pages in the process. It also suffers from having far too many characters to track as a result.
Its quite unfortunate - the 300+ pages involving Honor and the core Oyster Bay plot are vintage Weber, the rest drag the score down.
However you can see why Weber was forced into this approach - the Honorverse has become too sprawling and complex, hopefully this is the end of his attempt to introduce a bit more segration into the Main and Sub series. If you read any Weber interviews part of this stems from Weber planning to finish the HH series with a Nelson-like Death for Honor during At All Costs, but deciding not to go ahead thus having to come up with a different way of putting a full stop in this section of the series.
This book is meant to be a closing chapter in the Havenite Wars and to sow the seeds of a new start. The book accomplishes this well with an excellent mix of Diplomacy and Action. In particular the ending of the book - though a kind of cliff hanger is handled very well indeed giving a sense of satisfaction whilst still making the reader eager for the next installment.
It still confirms Weber as at or near the top of the Space Opera tree - just not quite firing on all cylinders. A Weber 3 star review should be considered a 4 star review for most others - his previous high standard affect my overall judgement of him.
on 14 March 2012
Weber's long series of books set in the "Honorverse" is thoroughly enjoyable if you like "military science fiction". That is, if you like mind-cheese with lots of stuff blowing up. Unlike most other authors in this sub-genre, Weber even manages to make his characters believable and sympathetic, to sometimes have realistic conversations and motivations. And the universe he creates is, on the whole, consistent.
The series went through a bad patch a few books back where there was lots of "jaw jaw" and very little of the "war war" that made the series so exciting. But I'm pleased to say that with the previous installment (At All Costs) and this one, he's back on form.
I have three criticisms. The first is that the books will make little sense unless you've read the previous installments. That's fair enough. Authors writing series have to strike a balance between making later works accessible to newcomers and annoying their established customers with repeated material. In a short series, a bit of repetition won't do any harm, but in this one - 12 books so far, with at least two more in the pipeline and quite probably more to come - it would be actively harmful.
The second is related to the first, but is, I think, rather more important. There are several spin-off series, also set in the same universe, which some readers may not have bothered with. Unfortunately one of them, the "Wages of Sin" series, turns out to be of vital importance, and the "Saganami Island" series is also of some relevance to this book and, to a lesser extent, to the previous one. Keeping track not only of a long main series with several parallel interacting plot threads (but at least they evolve alongside each other in a single series) but also of at least one and potentially several other series at the same time is hard. It's worth doing, but hard.
And finally, remember how I said that the universe Weber has created is mostly consistent? The big economic inconsistency is beginning to bite, hard. He knows it - he even has some characters talk about how it makes no sense. He tries to justify it as being a front for a huge conspiracy, but huge conspiracies just don't work. The one he's written involves literally millions of people, at least thousands of whom are scattered all over the place amongst other polities and societies, and they're actually multi-generational sleeper agents. He expects us to believe that the children of sleeper agents will be content to be brought up as normal people (you can't trust young children with such secrets, after all), to form friendships, perhaps fall in love with members of the host society, and, when you inform them of their family's hidden role for them to just accept it. Even if somehow most of them held it together, all it would take would be for a handful to blow the whistle and, given how many there are, this must happen - and yet it doesn't for hundreds of years, not until narrative imperative compels it. I can ignore this, I read lots of sci-fi, much of it in the "bad but entertaining" mould, and so my suspension of disbelief muscle gets a regular workout. But even so, it is irritating.
Those last two niggles, plus the entire series's utter lack of anything approaching literary value means it gets only three stars. I recommend it for those who are already Honorverse fans (not that there's much point in recommending it as you'll all buy it anyway) and I recommend the Honorverse as a whole to all sci-fi fans, but I have to insist that you read the books in order. Specifically, in publication order, so that you get the other series at the right time.
on 13 August 2012
I am addicted to David Weber's Honor Harrington series. I have read them all. Once you start reading one of his books you are transformed instantly into the future as well as to the 19th century since he transformed that period with it's morals, ethics etc into the future with one exception, the role of women. It's a great idea if you do not think to hard about the fact that kings and queens are the rulers of the future and not common people.
This was a real brick of a book. 800+ pages. And still it was just foreplay to the real action that will probably take place in the next book. Reading 800+ pages and in the end realizing that you will not get to the main event is a little frustrating. I can understand those who stated that you could have reduced this book by 200-400 pages without loosing anything from the story. Weber has really spent a lot of his efforts into creating the right situation for the next book. On the other hand, all this foreplay is well written and even if you get a little frustrated over not getting to the main event you are entertained along the way.
The Problem with reading this huge work is that you are forced to read about a lot of events and people that you meet so many years ago in previous books and that you today have a hard time remembering. Personally I was a little annoyed over finding the appendix with the list of persons in the book in the end instead of in the beginning so that I could use it during reading and not finding it once I was done.
But anyway, this is a classic Honor Harrington story and I look forward to reading the next one.
on 20 June 2014
I have read all of the honor books but I only bought the last two second hand as they were becoming too talky. This book had around 300 pages of great action, the David Weber of old. Unfortunately the other 500 pages were mind numbing. I skimmed at least 200 pages and missed nothing as far as I can see. Everything is over explained again and again. Sadly, many writers are going this way, to make sure presumably, that the readers don't miss anything. The vast majority of readers are capable of reading between the lines and do not need this treatment. I hope that David Weber will return to his old tight prose and that the next book will be better, and shorter.
on 9 January 2013
What more needs to be said? It's an excelent read. It does tend to bog down in places with too much description and background, as is normal for David Weber, but it still leaves you wanting more. The ending, not giving much away, does leave you hanging, wanting to just turn the page and continue with the story line. Recomended.
on 19 September 2010
Since discovering David Weber's books on a random visit to a bookshop in Canada about 8 years ago I have devoured everything he's written in the Honor Harrington universe, Prince Roger series and the rest of his SciFi books. What I liked so much about Weber was his excellent plotting, his clear story arcs, his brilliant characterisation and his enjoyable writing.
I've noticed in his last few books that something seems to be going wrong and nowhere is this better illustrated than in this book. The author seems to be consistently much more interested in telling the side stories in long, and often tedious detail, than in focusing on the main characters and story, and hence his books are growing longer and longer.
When I picked up this book. I thought "great, a welcome return to form". At "only" 584 pages it's one of the shorter ones that Weber has written recently and I was looking forward to a return to the tautly written and plotted books that made Weber such a fantastic author. Unfortunately we don't get that here.
Oh, we get flashes of it. There are welcome returns from several characters featured in previous books but again there is much tedious recapping of side arcs and overall too many side characters introduced, with too much detail on them, and almost total neglect of the core characters that have made this a great series.
Apparently Weber had meant to kill off Honor in At All Costs and, while I love the character, maybe it would have been better if he had. While previous books have featured brilliant and moving descriptions of her feelings and emotional state, this book is almost devoid of any focus on her at all, particularly at the end of the book when a number of key events occur which should have a major impact on her emotions.
Without wanting to give spoilers away one character dies who really should have got more of a send off. This character is an important recurring character who I'm sure many of us loved and who seems to be killed off for no reason. And to add insult to injury there is almost no mention of impact of the character's death on Honor.
The novel reads very much like the first 350 pages were a labour of love and the last 200-odd were rushed out to meet a print deadline. Another alternative is that Weber has gotten tired of writing about Honor and was keen to go onto other things (if that's the case, if you could find a moment to sit down with John Ringo and write a Prince Roger sequel, that would be great!).
As a number of reviewers have said on this site, a 3 star rating for Weber would still be a 4 star for someone else and I agree with that. This is still a reasonable book but compared to most of his other books in the Honorverse it is a disappointment.
on 14 July 2011
Not the best in the series, primarily because it concentrates more on politics than action. The arc welding between the various sub-series doesn't help - if you haven't read the "Torch of Freedom" or "Shadow" sub series (which I haven't) then you're left wondering what's been happening; if you have then I guess it's covering old ground.
The other problem is that I simply don't believe the politics of the Solarian League. Mr Weber seems to have come up with a polity that is a weird aglomeration of the political structure of the EU (corporatist, not very democratic) with the Russian military (huge but fairly primitve) about to undergo a civil war over slavery (US in the 19th century). As a result of Countess Gold Peake's (Michelle Henke) actions in the Talbot Cluster, they decide to stamp down on the "neobarb" Empire of Manticore - and are thoroughly stomped by Manticore's much more advanced forces. Their response is not to find out how the hell the Manties achieved their victory (though one character does consider how it might have been achieved to come up with a completely erroneous theory for why it couldn't happen again - deliberate misinformation on the part of the real "Big Bad", Manpower), but to simply throw more ships at them until Manticore submits. That's a Zapp Brannigan strategy ("Throw ships at them until the wreckage chokes their gun barrels!") that no even vaguely responsive government could ever pursue - given it involves sending millions of soldiers to their deaths on Manticorean missiles, they'd mutiny long before you won. Of course, that's pretty much what Manpower/Mesa is counting on (they intend to forment a civil war to set up their version of the Confederacy out of the Ashes of the League) but you'd think somebody in the League would think about the consequences of such a bone headed strategy. And I have trouble believing in Manpower/Mesa too - they're a race of genetically engineered supermen who are sure they can win, yet it doesn't occur to their leader that a gang of Bond Supervillains are scarcely going to be the most cohesive force once it's clear that he intends to rule for a century and has his clone sons set up to succeed him. Set against that, I did actually believe the Havenite politics - there's a wonderful scene where Honor turns up on Haven with the Eigth Fleet and comms President Pritchard to say she's like a word, followed by a game of one-upmanship (I'd say dick measuring if either was a guy!) where they casually mention the names of those around them.
And no Honor novel would be complete without the death of somebody close to her. Operation Oyster Bay (although the name is chosen to suggest Pearl Harbour, it's actually closer to 9/11, given the millions of civilian deaths) results in the death of Andrew LaFollet, who dies protecting Honor's son (Honor considers it's a tragic irony that she reassigned him precisely because it was less dangerous on Sphinx, but that it was probably how he would have chosen to die).
As for the road ahead - it's clearly going to come down to the new Haven/Manticore Alliance against the Solarian League until they can find the true villains (Mesa/Manpower), who they now know are behind just about everything that's happened for the past ten novels. Who will win? Well, you never bet against the woman with her name in the title...