Monday, February 25, 2013

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington #1) by David Weber

Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1962, David Mark Weber is a science fiction and fantasy author whose stories run the range from epic fantasy to space opera with alternate history and military science fiction where he tends to highlight naval themes.

Weber has written a number of different series and stand alone books, however one of his most popular series is the military science fiction opera whose title coincides with the main character's name, Honor Harrington. Honor's name and Weber's stories are an homage to C. S. Forester's character Horatio Hornblower. Honor's story, together with the "Honorverse" she inhabits, has been developed through 14 novels and various shared-universe anthologies.

In 2008, Weber donated his archive to the department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University. Many of Weber's books are available online, either in their entirety or in part, as part of the Baen Free Library.

Visit David Weber here.

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On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington #1) by David Weber

On Basilisk Station by David Weber
Digital Edition
Honor Harrington in trouble: Having made him look the fool, she's been exiled to Basilisk Station in disgrace and set up for ruin by a superior who hates her. Her demoralized crew blames her for their ship's humiliating posting to an out-of-the-way picket station. The aborigines of the system's only habitable planet are smoking homicide-inducing hallucinogens. Parliament isn't sure it wants to keep the place; the major local industry is smuggling, the merchant cartels want her head; the star-conquering, so-called "Republic" of Haven is Up to Something; and Honor Harrington has a single, over-age light cruiser with an armament that doesn't work to police the entire star system. But the people out to get her have made one mistake. They've made her mad.
I enjoy military science fiction and David Weber is one of those authors whose works I have been meaning to read for a while. This series was recommended to me last year during a discussion about females as central figures in science fiction space operas or military sci fi.

On Basilisk Station definitely qualifies as a military science fiction space opera, and Honor Harrington plays the dominant central figure. Most of the story is told from her point of view, although that point of view shifts to secondary characters' some who ruminate about Honor's personality traits or her performance as captain of the Fearless, and of course the villains of the piece who worry about how Captain Harrington's actions will affect their plan.

I wish this book had worked out better for me. Instead it was a mixed bag with excellent sections that include detailed, action-packed military battles, and particularly good military science fiction descriptions and sections where it is obvious that Weber placed the majority of his efforts. Where it does not work for me is in how some of this information is delivered.

The book begins slowly and actually becomes plodding at times due to Weber's tendency to use huge sections of information to begin the process of building his world. Later during some of the most exciting sections of the story, including a gorgeously detailed space battle, the flow is repeatedly interrupted by additional long sections of info-dumping (history of the Manticoran system, military history and history of weapons development). In other words, all these excellent historical details that I mention above are not well weaved in with the rest of Honor's adventure.

Honor as the central character is interesting, but the reader doesn't really get to know her character well. We know she comes from Sphinx, that she has a "cool soprano voice," and that she is emphatically bonded to a treecat. This whole bonding with the treecat is mentioned but not really explored. There are a few other personal revelations about her, but not enough to define Honor in-depth. Instead we get to know her as a captain whose crew is initially hostile and slowly learn to admire her for her honor and talents of deduction, as a captain, and as a tactician, and believe me there's not much that Honor can't do! Even if she must sacrifice her career, crew and ship to save her home world, Honor will do the right thing.

There's little "grey" about Weber's characters or or his story, instead there's a lot of black and white. The story itself kept my interest throughout, with political games adding some much needed grey areas and a bit of a twist, some secondary characters that I really came to like along the way, but with a few unanswered questions (or gaping plot holes) left at the end of the story that may or may not be answered in future installments.

There are some excellent moments in On Basilisk Station, and Honor is a good heroine if maybe in need of a flaw or two or three. I have the second book of the series, The Honor of the Queen, and will read it hoping that the story will be better executed. After all, there is enough to enjoy in On Basilisk Station and the military science fiction details are good enough to merit a second look at this very popular military science fiction series.


2013 Sci Fi Experience
Category: Military Science Fiction Opera
Series: Honor Harrington #1
Digital Edition - Released Oct 1, 1994 by Baen Publishing
Grade: C+

Series:

1. On Basilisk Station (April 1993)
2. The Honor of the Queen (June 1993)
3. The Short Victorious War (April 1994)
4. Field of Dishonor (October 1994)
5. Flag in Exile (September 1995)
6. Honor Among Enemies (February 1996)
7. In Enemy Hands (July 1997)
8. Echoes of Honor (October 1998)
9. Ashes of Victory (March 2000)
10.War of Honor (October 2002)
11.At All Costs (November 2005)
12.Mission of Honor (June 2010)
13.A Rising Thunder (March, 2012)
14.Shadow of Freedom (February 18, 2013)

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