The Great Honor Harrington Read Along

I love the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. It’s a military science fiction series that gets bigger as it goes along. Weber makes some huge political happenings take over the plot at points, and the lengthy descriptions of weaponry can be off-putting for some but others will eat it up.

For several years as a college student, I was disillusioned with reading. I kept wanting science fiction books that had big ships that were shooting at each other. (I was–and probably am–a simple man.) When I read On Basilisk Station, it was everything I’d been hoping for. It had serious political background to go with great ship-to-ship battles. The Honor of the Queen, book 2, spoke to some of the theological challenges I was facing and assessing related to women in leadership (coming from a conservative background and moving into a more liberal and egalitarian background). Long story short, I loved everything about this series. I have read it through a couple times, listened to them all at least once, and branched off and read many other works by Weber.

It’s time to start again, and I want to bring readers along with me. My intent is to read at whatever rate I want and provide deep reviews of the books as I go, commenting not just on the content of the book but also how it impacted my life at the time (if it did) and other asides. This go-through, I’ll be reading all the related books as well, and trying to do it in approximately publication order, though I’ll diverge if it makes sense with some of the prequels.

Please let me know if you’re reading and if you’d like to read along. I’d be so happy to have others to read along with, and would work to match my rate to others’ if necessary. My plan is to start reading On Basilisk Station today, with a goal of finishing it sometime around the end of the month (February 2022). This post will be updated with links to all my reviews for the series.

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Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

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“The Guns Above” by Robyn Bennis – A Steampunk Delight

It’s no secret: I love steampunk. The thing is, I’ve struggled to find novels that capture the feel I really, really want out of the subgenre. The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld is one prime example of an excellent series. Then, I saw The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis. It had a blurb from my favorite author, David Weber on it. Surely, he would not lead me wrong! Would he?

No, he wouldn’t.

Robyn Bennis’s The Guns Above is the beginning of what I hope becomes a lengthy fantasy series. Bennis doesn’t do much experimental here. No, she instead delivers to readers an extremely sound, tight, action-packed steampunk novel. Do you want harrowing air battles? Do you want some political intrigue? Character development? Check all the boxes, it’s all here.

The story centers around Josette Dupre,who is the first woman airship captain in her nation. Some doubt her abilities. Upping the drama is the addition of Lord Bernat, a love-to-hate aristocrat with a gambling and womanizing problem. These might sound like familiar tropes, but Bennis develops them so well and adds just enough twists and turns in the overall plot and world to make it a novel that I churned through not once, not twice, but three times already. I’m thinking about adding the audiobook to my collection because it’s that good. It’s a lengthy read, but one that is so quick to pass by that I sat and read it in a day the first time.

Character development is clearly one of Bennis’s strengths. I know that term gets thrown around a lot. Too many times it means a character is interesting throughout the book. Here, the mains truly develop. They change in meaningful ways that make sense within the plot. They’re not static, but living and breathing.

The blurb from David Weber is spot-on as there are many parallels here, from the military trappings to the character development. It’s a debut novel that not only shows a ton of promise but also absolutely delivers the goods. And it has airships. AIRSHIPS, people. This is the kind of novel that fans of older JRPGs like Final Fantasy IV-IX and their like have longed for. Go get it. Read it. Love it. Share about it. And then come here and talk to me about it. Oh, and good news: the second book is already out!

Tell me what you think of The Guns Above in the comments!


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


MantiCon 2015: After-Action Report (David Weber, Timothy Zahn, Eric Flint, + More!)

Dreams do come true. Here I am with my new Treecat (name pending) and David Weber!

Dreams do come true. Here I am with my new Treecat (name pending) and David Weber!

I spent Memorial Day Weekend having the absolute time of my life at a science fiction convention, MantiCon 2015. It was the inaugural MantiCon, a convention based on the universes of author David Weber. Weber, Timothy Zahn, Eric Flint, Joelle Presby, and other authors were in attendance. It was the most fun I’ve had in some time!


When I first arrived, the events hadn’t started yet, so I scoped out the rooms and the fan tables (AKA places with everything I wanted to buy). After I bought some sweet stuff (a lanyard, a Grayson Space Navy patch, and a War Officer’s pin), I went to the “Meet the Authors” session, then the Opening ceremony. After that, it was a string of sessions, meeting authors, and chatting science fiction with other excited people. Here, I’ll go over a few sessions and some cool stuff.


Women in Science Fiction

I went to the panel on women in science fiction and the discussion was broad, but deep. We discussed things like whether the concept of a “strong female lead” is actually helpful in forwarding equality of the sexes, the notion of a “strong” character in general, the notion of women as “background” rather than characters in science fiction, favorite women in science fiction, and more. It was a fast-moving panel and it was clear that all the panelists had different perspectives that were each valued and mutually overlapping without being contradicting each other. Panels like this need to keep happening until we get to the point that we don’t need them any more.

Kinetic & Energy Weapons

This was one of several more technical sessions I went to and it was exciting. The speaker talked about some of the ways science fiction weapons are being adapted now, along with theoretical and mathematical data to talk about weapons in science fiction. It was  fun and more interesting than I thought it would be. Lots of thought goes into weapons development–even of the fictional variety!

Getting your Dream Job

I had the pleasure of going to a session that was basically about getting to be an author. It turned largely into a Q+A with me asking the questions because no one else was asking any. Several people told me after I was asking the questions they would have liked to but couldn’t think of them. I was pleased to help others–and myself–learn more about writing and becoming an author. Now to pound the keyboard to pulp cranking out some books!


Weber Q&As

David Weber outlined his publishing schedule, talked about his plans for where he wants to take various series, and took a number of questions. He was extremely gracious, and his answers were informative and interesting. One of the main themes of both of the Q&A sessions I went to was that his goal at this point in his life is to try to finish the series he has going right now. He said he wants to make sure his fans get to read the endings and get closure. Of course this means that he won’t be able to write the million other series he has just floating around in his head. He told us about one that sounded awesome but it was historical fiction and he felt he just won’t have time to get into it, unless he lives for 90+ years.

I was glad to hear that it sounds like he’ll be wrapping up the main Honor Harrington storyline within a couple books. He might even write more later about the Alignment and other issues, but again his goal is to try to tie as many loose ends as he can. It sounds like he’s going to really explore the universe a bunch more with the offshoot series once he’s done with the main Honor books.

Safehold! Safehold! I was pretty excited to hear him say that after the one coming up (Hell’s Foundations Quiver) and the one after that, we’ll have some kind of time jump ahead. Again, it sounds like we’re going to get this series wrapped up within 10 years or so, with books coming out all the time. To me, that’s an awesome thing. I can’t wait for more. I’m a huge fan of the Safehold series.

He also talked about many other series he’s working on and his plans for wrapping them up. It sounds like his fantasy series (starting with War God’s Own)–one I haven’t read yet–is wrapped up, but had some loose ends that he is going to write somewhere around four books to finish. His Multiverse series is going to start once more after a decade-long hiatus. Other series may see returns and completion as well. Weber was clearly dedicated to trying to wrap up as many stories he’s telling as he can. I think this is a very kind thing for an author to do, and Weber is a pretty awesome guy!

I had a chance at a few of the signings to ask questions, and one was to ask what his favorite hymn is. His Safehold series has had either hymn titles or lines of hymns as titles for all but the first book, and he’s a Methodist lay minister, so I was wondering what his favorite was. It was “Amazing Grace,” which was also my grandpa’s favorite hymn (my Grandpa was a Methodist minister)! I told him he should title the last book of the Safehold series Amazing Grace. It would be awesome if he did.

Timothy-ZahnTimothy Zahn Q&A

Zahn talked Star Wars and his thoughts about the upcoming movie, which was largely “I will go see it, but I’m not sure if it will be good.” He also talked about whether he might write Star Wars again (seems unlikely) and the possibility of whether they will wrap up the Expanded Universe–everyone hopes so.

After that, it was discussion of many of his series and what he’s going to do with them. He has some more Cobra books coming out, a few ideas for a Young Adult series, and many ideas for more in various universes he’s written. I am not as familiar with some of these, because I read pretty much everything by Zahn but I did so 15 or more years ago. Thus, it’s hard to remember anything. I’ve decided to go back through Zahn’s corpus though. It’s been too long since I read his stuff.


Got some pretty cool T-shirts at the vender tables, including both a Royal Manticoran Navy and Grayson Space Navy shirt. But the pride and joy of my MantiCon experience (apart from my loads of autographed books) was to get, at last, a Treecat! They had just 25 available and announced them at the opening ceremony, so I pretty much ran to the store they were going to be available and got one!


I can’t emphasize enough how much fun MantiCon 2015 was. It really solidified in me the notion that I want to be a science fiction author, but more than that, it was an absolutely awesome time. How often do you get the chance to hang out with hundreds of people with the same interests you have, talking about science fiction? Not often enough, I tell ya. Moreover, the authors were all extremely gracious and frankly amiable. It was a great lineup of guests and they were very kind. Here’s hoping MantiCon 2016 will happen, and be somewhere close to me!


Microview: “Off Armageddon Reef” by David Weber

oar-weberDavid Weber is probably my favorite author as far as fiction is concerned, but I admit that I had put off starting his “Safehold” series for a while because I was afraid it’d ruin my perception of him–that is, as the author of the greatest military sci-fi I’ve read, the Honor Harrington series (see a discussion of one of the books here). Finally, I gave in and read it and just had to share my thoughts here.

Let’s get it out of the way: this a phenomenal way to start a series. Humanity has been all but destroyed by the alien threat known as the Gbaba. The last vestiges of humanity have been brainwashed (voluntarily) into losing all memory of technology–the way that humans were discovered by the Gbaba–and were then established on a planet, Safehold, to try to start afresh.

Some of the humans who went with them as these memory-altered humans were being sent to their planet, however, changed the programming to include an extremely powerful church hierarchy. Other humans want to stick with the game plan and have the last home of humanity be a place where they could regrow and develop technology planetside to avoid detection by the Gbaba.

These factions clashed, and from the ashes came Merlin–the main character–a kind of human-robot whose goal is to guide humanity along the second path and away from the hierarchy established by others. And that’s where this book takes off.

Weber does a masterful job interweaving elements of fantasy, political drama, and science fiction in what was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had reading a book. He sets the table for a truly epic series–one I hope will develop towards an ultimate battle with the Gbaba.

As is typical with Weber, lengthy conversations and insights into politicking are interspersed with battles–here they are battles on the high seas instead of in space. In-depth descriptions of new technology are also offered, but they add to the depth of the story rather than ever seeming dry. There are also a number of questions related to theology, philosophy, and politics that come up simply as aspects of the plot. This adds another layer of depth to a book already brimming with awesome.

When I finished this book, I stood (I was rocking my sleeping baby in a front baby carrier) and smiled as I contemplated the breadth and depth of the new world that David Weber had just introduced to me. It was an amazing moment as I realized the true scope of the plot to which I had been introduced. I hope the rest of the series cashes in on this promise, and that we get a centuries-long epic.

The Good

+Vast world with great depth to individual nations
+Huge potential for later in the series
+Seamlessly interwoven questions of philosophy, theology, and more

The Bad

-Perhaps just a bit too much technical language interwoven into the story
-A very steep initial learning curve


Grade: A 

Off Armageddon Reef is an awesome beginning, and I can’t wait to read more of Weber’s Safehold series. I’m hoping it’s going to be a centuries-spanning epic that the introductory portion seemed to promise.


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)


Science Fiction- One of my loves.

Science fiction is, in my opinion, the most malleable genre for writers to play with. One can hypothesize about the science of the future, or make up magic; one can explore the stars, or have the stars come to destroy you; one can contemplate the human condition, or ignore it and charge forward to meet one’s destiny. It is beautiful and frightening all at once.

This was a long time ago... I look much different 😉

I love science fiction. I don’t often read anything but philosophy, but when I do, sci-fi is my genre of choice. (Okay, so I’m not exactly the most interesting man in the world.) I have read almost every Star Wars novel which is post-movie canon. I love Orson Scott Card anything. He is a simple genius with words and worlds. I know he’d cringe to be grouped with Star Wars because I met the man once, and he is one awesome guy [proof in the picture!]. David Weber is also growing on me of late, I find his military sci-fi fascinating. Ben Bova is also captivating. His speculation about the future of our technology and expansion across the solar system is gripping. I recommend his works highly. I remember still the day that I picked up Moonwar and couldn’t stop reading it.

I’ve been writing my own science fiction novel, playing with the malleability I’ve already noted. One can speculate not just about future technology, but also about future theology. Writing sci-fi, one can speculate on the “What if?” questions that we so often ignore. Thus, in a way, it seems to me that science fiction just is philosophy. Authors frequently contemplate the big questions, and their stories and characters are their answer to these questions. This, I think, is what makes science fiction so great. It’s not just storytelling; it’s future-making. Science fiction strives to point humans in the direction the author thinks is best. The genre is worldview-laden. Authors cannot write without a worldview, and the fact that science fiction tells the future means that authors frequently inject their worldview into the story. Their vision for the future is the ideal society; the author’s fears are reflected in a dystopia.

For all these reasons, I say that science fiction is one of my loves. Perhaps one day I’ll finish the book I’ve been working on for years (at one point it was over 80 pages–I’ve since edited it down to 30) and then I’ll be able to offer my own vision of the future. Until then, I’ll enjoy the masterworks others have created.

Do you love sci-fi as well? If so, who do you read? Why?