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War of Honor: Honor Harrington #10

by David Weber

hardcover edition

Things to read instead of Honor Harrington

This is not a review.

I was going to review the new Honor Harrington book, War of Honor. Really I was. I barely have time to write reviews these days, but it's been quite a while since the last Honor novel, and I was filled with boundless (and baseless) optimism.

Besides, War of Honor comes with a CD containing all of the the previous Honor novels, plus lots of other random Baen books, in etext. That kind of marketing coolness deserves my support.

So I coughed up $26 + tax, took my shiny new book (and I do mean shiny) home, and started reading. And I plowed through several pages of military and political exposition, and then skimmed ahead to where Honor finally showed up. And, regrettably, Honor had only shown up to generate more political exposition, along with some smirky dialog of the sort that has made me grate my teeth ever since David Eddings pioneered the technique as a substitute for actual wit. So I skimmed ahead some more, and around page 70 I realized that so far there had been maybe 8 pages that weren't pure exposition. At this rate I'd finish the book in about an hour, but I'd receive a lethal dose of irritation in the process. So I stopped.

So I can't review it, because I could barely even start it, let alone finish it; but God forbid I pass up a chance to pontificate. There's plenty I could complain about, but instead I'll just mention a few books that Harrington fans are likely to enjoy a lot more than anything Weber has extruded in the past few years.

David Weber: Path of the Fury

Well, why not start with Weber? Path of the Fury is very early Weber at his wish-fulfillment best. It has betrayal, revenge, evil space pirates, really fast ships, military figures out the wazoo, and big complicated space battles. Also a mythological figment of vengeance and a heroine who is only slightly less powerful than God.

It's pretty easy to find these days, which is a good thing. The first person I ever lent it to refused to give it back, and I had to buy another copy.

Tanya Huff: Valor's Choice

This is the anti-Honor-Harrington, and not just because all the action takes place on the ground. The heroine is a staff sergeant who spends more time worrying about individual soldiers than battlegroups. She's supremely competent, and she gets her hands dirty, and she doesn't get to be in charge of the obligatory final battle against impossible odds.

The sequel, The Better Part of Valor, is readable but pointless.

Steven Gould:Blind Waves

This is not actually space opera of any flavor; it's set in the melty-icecap near-future, off of Texas's submerged Gulf coast. But there's a strong heroine, lots of military action, and kind of a sweet romance. Patricia Beeman finds a sunken wreck full of dead illegal immigrants, which makes her a target for the very dangerous people who want it to stay hidden. The military INS officer who shows up to investigate has a Tragic Past and a scar that isn't dashing so much as disfiguring. The story moves quickly, the dialogue is clever, and the worldbuilding is pretty darn cool.

Gould hasn't written a bad book yet, and he's currently working on a sequel to Jumper.

James Alan Gardner: Hunted

Another why-does-everyone-want-to-kill-me book. It's one of Gardner's League of Peoples books, set after godlike aliens have given humanity all kinds of technological toys that they weren't really ready for. The protagonist, Edward, is the son of a powerful Admiral; he's pretty, but dumb as a post. (Insert your own political joke.) When he survives a disaster that kills the entire crew of his spaceship, all kinds of assassins, both human and alien, start coming after him. I like Gardner a lot, and this is probably his strongest novel. However, it's very dark in places; in Gardner's worlds, people are mostly weasels. I keep reading because the people that aren't weasels are enjoyably snarky`.

C.S. Forester: Ship of the Line/Flying Colours

If you like Weber's plots but can't stand all the exposition, go back to his source material, the Horatio Hornblower books. Hornblower is an impoverished captain in the British navy during the Age of Sail; he's got a bit of a stick up his butt, but he's a brilliant tactician, and the battle scenes are terrific. Ship of the Line and Flying Colours are, in my opinion, the best books to start with; they're in the middle of the series chronologically, but they stand well on their own. If you've slogged through the past few Honor books, you'll recognize quite a few plot points that Weber lifted wholesale. And thanks to the recent BBC/A&E Hornblower movies, all the books have been reissued in lovely trade paper editions.

Okay, I feel better now. Next time, we'll work on breaking that nasty little Laurell K. Hamilton habit. The first step to recovery is admitting that she's not going to get any better.

-- Christina Schulman.
Reviewed in
August 2003

trade paperback edition
Publisher: Baen
Date: September 2002
ISBN: 0-743-43545-1
Binding: hardcover
Pages: 880 (!)
Price: US $26.00

If you like this book, you will probably also enjoy:

David Weber: Flag in Exile

David Weber: Echoes of Honor

David Weber: Oath of Swords

David Weber: The War God's Own

David Weber and Steven White: In Death Ground

David Weber: Path of the Fury

Tanya Huff: Valor's Choice

Steven Gould: Blind Waves

James Alan Gardne: Hunted

C.S. Forester: Ship of the Line

C.S. Forester: Flying Colours
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Aug 2003 / CMS