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Echoes of Honor
by David Weber
Echoes of Honor is the eighth book in David Weber's Honor Harrington series, highly addictive space opera loosely based on C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower and history's Horatio Nelson. If you're new to the series, start with On Basilisk Station, and read the series in order.
It's impossible to discuss Echoes of Honor without revealing the events of the previous book, In Enemy Hands; so if you want to avoid spoilers for the latter, stop reading now!
At the end of In Enemy Hands, Honor and several of her crew escaped from Peep custody to land on the prison planet Hades. The rest of the galaxy believes her dead, a belief the People's Republic of Haven goes to some effort to confirm, although they're just a little embarassed about the actual details of her apparent demise.
Hades is a hostile jungle planet, with no foodstuffs digestible by humans, and full of predators reluctant to believe that they can't digest humans. Primitive prison camps are scattered around the largest of its four continents. (Prison planets always do seem to suffer from a scarcity of continents. And climates.) The prisoners' survival depends upon regular shipments of food from State Security, which controls all the firepower and transportation on the planet -- except for the pair of assault shuttles and assorted weaponry appropriated by Honor's people during their escape.
The question is, how much damage will Honor and her merry band inflict on the Peeps on their way out? Honor Harrington books are like Roadrunner cartoons that way: You know all the Peeps in her vicinity will end up as greasy black spots on the pavement; the fun lies in seeing whether they're shot, stabbed, detonated, or catapulted over a cliff.
Echoes of Honor is quite a long book, 569 pages in all, but only about half of that is devoted to Honor's activities. The rest alternates between various Peep and Manticore viewpoints of the ongoing war, liberally sprinkled with reaction to Honor's "death." Honor's martyrdom is carried a bit too far; Grayson and Manticore mourn her with the sort of reverence usually reserved for Catholic saints and baseball heroes.
Weber advances the course of the war considerably with plotlines devoted to a savage Peep onslaught and Manticore's reinvention of the aircraft carrier. The result is a handful of great combat scenes embedded in excruciatingly dull infodumps. Entirely too many pages are spent on events peripheral to Honor's escape; I waded through these sections as quickly as possible, with my eyeballs set on "skim."
Still, Echoes of Honor is a lot of fun. Honor's storyline is worth the price of admission; my only complaint is that it ends much too abruptly. She kicks butt and takes names with one hand not so much tied behind her back as entirely absent. This unrepentant world-striding heroism is what addicted me to the series in the first place, and I want the next one now.
-- Christina Schulman.
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