Tuesday, July 18, 2006
More Than Honorable
I've been hearing about Honor Harrington by David Weber for years. A young relative and some of the YAs at Readerville are fans. The Honor Harrington series is supposed to be a "cult hit" (Amazon.com). Her first adventure, On Basilisk Station, has been on my To Read Shelf for years. This summer I'm actually hitting the shelf, and I finally picked up the book and read it.
School Library Journal reviewed On Basilisk Station for YA, though Honor is both 24 and 40 years old, depending on whether you're using the calendar of her own planet or ours. I think that's brilliant, by the way. It makes Honor a character two generations can relate to.
On Basilisk Station is set well in the future, hundreds of years after humans have moved out into space. The system of planets Honor is from maintains an aristocracy, which I found odd at first, but it made a great deal of sense once the situation was explained. The Honorverse of the book is extremely well-thought out. Star Trek usually comes to mind any time I'm reading a book set on a space ship. Not so here.
I've seen the books described as Horatio Hornblower in space. Since I haven't read Horatio Hornblower, I can't say. But I think the point is that these are seafaring war stories moved into the future.
As genre fiction goes, I think Honor Harrington is pretty good. There's none of the Stop the story! I've got to describe something! factor that you find in a lot of lesser efforts. Traditional female cliches are avoided. Early on Honor has a run-in with the aristocratic captain of another ship who she clearly has a history with. I thought, Oh, no. They're going to be old lovers and play catch me, catch me through the rest of the book. Not at all. A pleasant surprise.
Another pleasant surprise was the status of women in this story. There was none of the trials of a woman in a man's world because this isn't a man's world. Women are hardened marines and engineers with absolutely no one remarking on it. And when battle time comes, women die as regularly as men.
I have to say that I found the setting and situation more interesting than I did Honor, herself, though I suspect that could change in future books. And I also felt there was an awful lot of talking going on. But the battle scenes were great. I hate myself for having to say this, but I liked them the best, especially the ones on the alien planet.
So while I can't say that I was so enthralled by this book that I'll continue reading the series, I'm glad to have read it.