David Weber’s Honor Harrington series is one of the biggest and still running scifi book series that I”m aware of. For those who are unaware, Honor Harrington is essentially Horatio Hornblower meets hard scifi and a dose of space opera for good measure. It’s been going on for twenty years now with no sign of stopping. Since the first book is free, via Baen’s ebook library, and I wanted something new to read, I decided to check it out.
Overall, the book is not good. It’s mired in a tedious plot that the reader has no investment in with characters who are by and large, dull. However there is just enough good stuff in the book, and it’s short enough, that it’s not a slog to get through. If you want a straight up or down recommendation, then I’d say try it. IF you want a more in-depth view then read on.
The good: Weber showcases two things that he’s very good at that I care about and one thing that I’m ambivalent towards. His worldbuilding for the most part, is top notch and engaging. What we’re told about Manticore and the rest of the galaxy is clearly thought out and unique enough that it keeps my attention. Second, the space battle sequence that serves as the book’s climax is legitimately awesome and engaging, even though the outcome is more or less known at the outset. Lastly, while I can certainly appreciate the effort of making this scientifically plausible on an abstract level, as a reader I don’t care.
The okay: All of the characters are just okay. They’re fairly two dimensional and their career problems, which make up a decent portion of the book, are not riveting in the slightest. The main plot of Haven’s plot to take over Basilisk is equally okay, it’s there to keep the book moving but when so much of it just happens instead of being the result of actions of characters the reader is invested in, it’s hard to care. Overall, Weber’s writing style is very workman-like, serviceable more than great; which in many ways is exactly what’d you described of Baen as a whole, so there’s that.
The bad: The politics are,so, so, incredibly stupid to read in every manifestation. Haven being nothing more than a two dimensional villain that’s an attack on the welfare state*, to Manticore’s parties being resoundingly incompetent and stupid to the naval politics to Harrington’s feud with Hauptman. The more overarching problem is that everyone who isn’t a good guy is incompetent. That’s boring to read, protagonist succeeding through writer fiat by virtue of the opposition being too stupid to do anything effective isn’t compelling reading.
Taken as a whole, this was a book that I slogged through more by virtue of word of mouth saying it got better than it actually being good. Having actually read the second book, Honor of the Queen, I’m inclined to agree with that statement. Which will most likely be the subject of next’s week post. Feel free to comment, otherwise till next time.
*Yes I’m aware that Haven is supposed to Napoleonic era France, no that doesn’t invalidate actual passages from the text which make it a failed welfare state or that’s it’s a heavy handed way to set up an ancien regime analog.