Honor Harrington Series

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The Honor of the Queen by David Weber

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Military science fiction is primarily known for male lead characters oozing testosterone who pull off amazing victories despite overwhelming odds. If this is what you are looking for, skip the Honor Harrington series of books. However, if you are looking for a fresh perspective on military sci-fi with a believable female commander, pull up a chair and settle in.

The Kingdom of Manticore and the Republic of Haven have been at odds for years. Everyone on both sides knows that war is inevitable. However, to date, conflicts between the two sides have been restricted to clandestine, strategic thrusts in out of the way places. Both sides are seeking allies for the coming war and the planets Grayson and Masada occupy an essential location between the two empires.

Grayson and Masada have been isolated from other human settlements for centuries. Their cultures are based on old religious beliefs stemming from the original biblical tales on Earth. On both planets, women are second class (maybe even third class) citizens with no rights or privileges. Worse, the citizens of Masada are hard core zealots who hate the Graysons and believe they are blasphemers against the faith. Masada has previously tried to conquer Grayson without success.

Enter Honor Harrington, one of the Maticorianís most promising young commanders. Her mission is to support a diplomatic mission to Grayson to secure a treaty allowing the installation of a forward military base in their star system. It would be bad enough if all she had to contend with were fanatical Masadeans and their secret allies from the Republic of Haven. But Honor must also contend with the contemptuous attitude of the Grayson military and political leaders who clearly think Honor should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen cooking dinnerÖ not anywhere near the bridge of a starship. Will having enemies on both sides be too much even for Honor to handle?

This is the second book in the Honor Harrington series (I have not yet read the first volume, On Basilisk Station). Weber does an excellent job of creating a complex female character in a genre where males tend to dominate. The six-limbed treecat (a pet that can sense human feelings) that perches on her shoulders is a nice touch. Weber gets you to empathize with Honor over the almost impossible situation that she is thrust into. It is never made clear why a female commander was assigned to this mission when a male would be the obvious choice, but that didnít detract from my enjoyment of the story.

The character development of Honor and the other main characters is sufficient to keep the military action from overwhelming the rest of the story. Warring religious factions make an interesting backdrop for a strategic military struggle and the battles are well thought out and choreographed. There are no miraculous victories hereÖjust hard won battles where the best strategist wins. One of the few faults of the novel is a lack of explanation of the weapons and propulsion technology. Although I eventually figured out how things worked in this universe, some detailed explanation would have been helpful. Perhaps it was in the first book.

This series now comprises about ten books and is extremely popular. With a likable, interesting main character and engaging military action, it is easy to see why this series is popular. I will definitely be reading additional books in the series.

Reviewed by Alan

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The Short Victorious War by David Weber  

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The third installment in the Honor Harrington series finds our heroine recovered from the grievous wounds suffered in the battle over Grayson. Assigned to a new starship that is the pride of the fleet and the envy of every other captain in the Manticorian navy, Honor has her work cut out for her. Aside from confronting two old enemies, training a raw crew that has never fought together before and dealing with mysterious animosity from the Admiral; she has nothing much to worry about! Oh, of course there is always the threat of war from the Peopleís Republic of Haven (the Peeps). Nevertheless, it is all in a dayís work for Honor!

The Peeps need a war with the Manticorian alliance to divert attention from their internal strife. The Peep navy outweighs the Manticorian navy by a margin of almost two to one. It seems like a perfect time to lure Manticore into starting a war and crushing them quickly. However, the Manticorians have superior technology on their side as well as brilliant military strategists like Honor Harrington. Despite the wishes of the Peep government, this war is going to be anything but short and victorious if the Manticorians have their say!

Unfortunately, this book falls short of its predecessor, The Honor of the Queen. This is primarily due to an attempt by Weber to cover too much ground. He appears uncertain whether this book should be about:

  1. Honorís military career
  2. Honorís love life
  3. Honorís struggle with old enemies and demons from her past
  4. A military conflict between Manticore and the Peeps
  5. An exploration of the downfall of the Peep economy

Weber attempts to cover it all and the result is that all the plot lines are shortchanged. The enemies that emerge from Honorís past are menacing, but Weber does not do enough with them to build any tension. Honorís relationship with another officer is a mere aside as opposed to being serious plot development. In addition, since so much of the book is devoted to the other plot lines, the military conflict comes off as flat and lacking tension. The brightest spots are the pages devoted to the Peepís economy. Most of their citizens are on the dole and constantly agitate for increases in the monthly stipend checks from the government. Therefore, the rulers must constantly expand the empire and bleed conquered systems dry to keep the proletariats at home satisfied.

I am going to continue reading this series because the other books in it have interesting topics and I believe this volume was really a set-up for future volumes. Let us see what tight spots Honor can get out of next time!

Reviewed by Alan

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Field of Dishonor by David Weber

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The fourth installment in the Honor Harrington series is a departure from the previous volumes. Instead of focusing on military engagements, a political crisis during peacetime is explored. Naturally, Honor is at the center of it.

After the uprising within the government of the Peopleís Republic of Haven, their war against the Manticorian alliance ceases. The Peeps' new government is busy purging their military of "undesirable" officers. The resulting turmoil among the Havenites is a perfect opportunity for the Manticorian alliance to declare war on the Peeps and take the offensive. However, a power struggle breaks out in the Manticorian parliament, led by an old enemy of Honor Harrington's. Suddenly, Honor must do battle on the treacherous field of politics, not in the vacuum of space where she was trained. However, one false move on the political battlefield could just as easily result in her death.

This volume is a vast improvement over The Short Victorious War. Weber invests a lot of time in the character development of Honor, her lover and her closest associate. We know in subsequent volumes that Weber will probably get back to military engagements, but this one is a refreshing change. Although the story was a bit predictable, I still found it held my attention up to the end. Honor is portrayed in a more human light (as opposed to being deified in earlier volumes) and this made me like her character even more than I already did. Weber has a good franchise going here which shows no signs of stopping (about 11 volumes in the series now). Iím hooked enough to read volume 5.

Reviewed by Alan

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