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Books: Honor Harrington Series

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Clephas

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Yes, I have indeed decided to add books to my regular posts, mostly due to Rooke's suggestion.  Understand, if you think I've read a lot of VNs... that is nothing in comparison to the number of books I've read over the twenty-eight years since I learned to read.  That number is somewhere in the tens of thousands... and one of the reasons I can be so intolerant when it comes to the excessive reliance on conventions in VNs, lol. 

Honor Harrington

Honor Harrington is both a character and a series written by David Weber, one of the more famous science fiction authors out there.  He tends to write military sci-fi, mostly, and in a different way from Ringo (Ringo being the most famous name in military sci-fi), he has reshaped the way I saw science-fiction to some extent. 

Honor, in the book On Basilisk Station, is the captain of a light cruiser named Fearless that has been exiled to the hardship post/dumping ground of her star nation's holdings for the crime of being an incidental part of the humiliation of one of her more well-connected superiors.  Throughout the series - up until this point (there are over twelve books now, and Harrington is both older and wiser), Harrington in many ways embodies all the military holds up as an ideal.  She is courageous, intelligent, aware of her duty, and she has a knack for ending up in the worst positions you could imagine (both politically and militarily).  Her character, over the course of the series, advances from a somewhat immature young officer to a wise woman who is all to0 aware of the cost of doing her duty.  She and her treecat (an alien empathic animal that occasionally forms bonds with humans) survive some of the worst hells, psychological and physical, that you could imagine existing in the mortal universe... and endure the loss of those who don't.

Now, a good military sci-fi series is no good without an enemy empire to deal with... and in this one, it is the People's Republic of Haven, a massive interstellar star nation with an apparently overwhelming advantage in numbers... but an economy that is going down the drain to the welfare state and the deliberate sabotage of the education system by the political elites (sounds kind of like a combination of democratic socialism for the first and Republican education policy for the latter, lol).  In Haven, over two thirds of the population is on the Dole, the name for their welfare system which basically hands out a living allowance to everyone who wants it... in exchange for making the 'legislature' and all other government positions hereditary some three centuries before.  Unfortunately, this has caused a slow but accelerating decay in the system as a whole, as entire generations grow up with the deliberately castrated education system and no incentive to try to rise above their peers.  This has led Haven to a very simple - and short-term - strategy... conquer neighbors, gut their economies to feed the worthless mouths of the mob, then include them in the Dole... rinse and repeat, ever expanding outward.  Unfortunately for Honor's homeland, Manticore, it has been slated as the next morsel to go down the throats of the faceless masses, and the antiquated but massive navy of the 'Peeps' is planning to make itself the fork.

The first few novels are basically preliminaries to the outbreak of open war (albeit bloody ones), where Honor finds herself in some really nasty situations as she does her duty and in the process incidentally foils the best-laid plans of the other side. 

One thing to keep in mind is that warships in the Honorverse tend to have hundreds to thousands of crewmen... meaning that every breach of the hull can kill dozens, further meaning that even in a 'minor confrontation' dozens to hundreds will die... and Honor rarely gets into 'minor confrontations'.  The guilt of a commander that loses men to the enemy is an important theme throughout the series, though not a primary one. 

Manticore, Honor's homeland, is a small three-planet, two-system star nation at the beginning, ruled by a constitutional monarchy, complete with a House of Lords and a House of Commons... Generally speaking, the position of the monarch is kind of similar to the current one of the Queen of England, both in law and substance... in other words, while she has very little actual direct authority by law, her influence is immensely strong, both as a symbol and as an individual.  The House of Lords, which was basically formed by ennobled 'original' colonists who were there before the plague that caused them to bring in large numbers in a second wave, is supposed to act as a restraint on the elected House of Commons, and generally the Prime Minister is chosen from amongst its members.  Manticore is probably the most advanced nation in the entire human-ruled galaxy (outside of genetics, which is Beowulf's and Mesa's specialty), at least partially because their prime system is at a wormhole junction that allows a much faster movement from one end of the ginormous Solarian Union to the other.  This gives them massive amounts of money and direct access to technology from other worlds that has let them build up a huge advantage in relative terms over the People's Republic, which is an issue that is important throughout much of the series.  In many ways, it is easy to think of Manticore as a futuristic version of the British Empire without the colonialist tendencies and racial arrogance.

Throughout the series, characters on the 'side of good' are put in situations that are pure hell, forced to make hard decisions, and they frequently live or die by those decisions, with Honor always at the forefront.  The series as a whole is really well-written... with realistic-feeling antagonists and easy to love characters on both sides of the war (Theisman from the second book comes to mind for the People's Republic), as well as people that are truly worthy of hate and contempt on both sides.  The more serious elements are broken up by the humorous interactions of Honor, her subordinates, and her friends, and there are many times throughout the series when big issues of morality are brought to the forefront (such as the morality of gene-manipulation, stating a big one). 

If there is one thing you'll notice about any David Weber book... it is that he manages to create characters that make you want to cheer them on... even on the other side.  He rarely, if ever produces a side of one of his books' wars that doesn't have people that are good despite the system they work within, and even the best of his people - including Honor herself - have their moments when they show the baseness of human nature's darker side.  Honor is the type that leashes her dark side with duty and unleashes it on the enemies of her people... but that dark side definitely exists, chained beneath the surface (as is seen rather clearly in the second and fourth books). 

My conclusion about this series - which I've reread four times - is that I can honestly recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction and space operas... but for people who can't handle complexity - both of scenario and of moral/philosophical issues - they will probably have difficulty with it.  The Honorverse is still going strong, currently... though it has several anthologies and two side-series (one based in the early days of Manticore and another focused on characters involved in the anti-slavery movement).  Honor herself hasn't been sidelined... but the story has evolved beyond that small portion of space that contains Haven and Manticore, meaning that it is not so focused around her anymore. 

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Yay, you made it :3

'Dole' is British slang, also it's used all the time in Ozzie-land. Not used in America?

This is the exact sort of story I wish someone would make as a VN. Deep world-building, characters, political, awesome space opera. I suppose anyone capable of writing something like this would be put off by the small fanbase that is open to reading VNs :(

Cause of your recommendation, I'm currently reading the first book :). It's damn good.

Edited by Rooke

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Ahh, some good old fashioned right-wing propaganda shoved ham-fistedly into a science fiction story. Gotta love it.

Dole is used somewhat commonly in America.

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*shrugs* it isn't quite incorrect to say that welfare without strings attached tends to have a deleterious effect if it crosses generations.  You just have to look at the Latin American and oil-rich countries that went too far that way to see that.  That doesn't cancel out the benefits of a carefully designed welfare plan, though... and most of it isn't right-wing propaganda.  Socially, it is closer to left-wing propaganda, hahaha. 

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Do you mean the Name of the Wind?  I read it when it first came out.  I recall liking it... but you have to understand, the sequel didn't come out until almost eight years after the original, so by that time, I'd basically lost track of it as a story, lol.

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Do you mean the Name of the Wind?  I read it when it first came out.  I recall liking it... but you have to understand, the sequel didn't come out until almost eight years after the original, so by that time, I'd basically lost track of it as a story, lol.

yeah, sorry it was a typo xD I was referring to the the kingkiller chronicle and it seems that the third one is in the way:rolleyes:... about those 8 years... just like George R.R. Martin likes to take his precious time to write so does Patrick Rothfuss :P 

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I prefer Steven Erikson or Glen Cook to Martin... .  Martin's sense of humor is lacking, and Erikson is a thousand times better at world-building and character design. 

Edited by Clephas

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