Last week I looked at the first book in the Honor Harrington series, On Basilisk Station. This week we’ll take a far more in depth look at its sequel, The Honor of the Queen. The reason for this is that there’s a lot more to discuss, or at least things I want to discuss. Given my distaste for faffing around with intros, let’s just jump right into it.
First, my spoiler free review: this is a vast improvement over the first book in basically every regard. It’s a fun read from start to finish with one glaring exception that is easy enough to ignore. If this is supposed to be more indicative of the series then this should be a fun ride.
Spoiler space, go!
Anyway, this review will be different than the first one in that I’ll be looking at individual elements instead of evaluating different parts of the book based on quality. In a lot of ways it’ll be like my s2 OITNB review, which you can find here, as I address points as they come to me.
Reginald Houseman: I mentioned that this book was very fun with one exception, and this is that exception. I hate Houseman, so very, very much. The problems start with his introduction and given background. Now to be fair, Weber wrote himself into a bit of a corner, with a genius economist character, it’s hard to actually demonstrate that competence nor is it something that the readers will want in all likelihood. At the same time, his presence on the diplomatic mission does make sense. That is all the goodwill I’m willing to extend as a reader though. The first problem, Houseman is an idiot, all of his interactions that are supposed to be demonstrative of his intellect or lack thereof is something I’d expect an idiot college freshman to recite without any idea of what it actually means or silly things like context, or points. The second problem, he isn’t even remotely realistic, he doesn’t act like any self righteous professors I’ve ever experienced. Third, he’s a caricature of things that David Weber doesn’t like in a check box fashion instead of anything more substantive. That’s the only explanation for why someone is labeled by the text as a socialist is basically spouting a Thomas Friedman column. Finally, there’s nothing redeemable about him, there are the same problems that the last book had it’s with opposition characters. Even his last scene is bad, as it excises him from the narrative in a way that’s honestly discomforting in how utterly callous it is.
Grayson: All in all, it has a fairly interesting history and it’s characters are are allowed to be something closer to actual people than we’ve seen so far. The existence of Bernard Yanakov goes a long way towards humanizing the world as a whole and addressing the gender issue in a way that was buyable, at least for me. Going forward it can interesting to see if it’s development is handled well. It really helps that Weber didn’t fill the entire planet with idiots, unlike Manticore’s political class.
Masada: These guys on the other hand, exist solely to make everyone else look good. They make Grayson appear reasonable despite their abysmal treatment of women, help underline galactic cosmopolitan norms and Haven to be something. Considering that their fate comes off as an afterthought it’s hard to come to any other conclusion.
Characters: Speaking of characters, there are far more actually enjoyable characters, or at least interesting characters to read this time around. I don’t think any of Honor’s subordinates can ever be interesting, but that’s fine. At least here we aren’t burdened with staff drama and even then they’re allowed to have cool moments; it’s just that these characters don’t exist outside of these moments. It’s everyone who’s more or less on her of importance that work here. A lot of it is due to the fact that they’re allowed to actually be characters with their own motivations and agency. It’s something that Weber hopefully keeps in mind from here on out.
Cosmopolitan norms: On one hand, the pains that the book takes to underline this point can be a bit excessive. On the other hand, this is a good thing to underline.
There’s actually not as much as I expected to say about this, the book doesn’t take long before the action starts and it pays off.
Feel to comment, next week I’ll be looking at science fiction of a particularly different flavor in Kinghts of Sidonia.