The Great Honor Harrington Read-Along: “On Basilisk Station” by David Weber

The Great Honor Harrington Read Along is a read along led by me with critical analysis and SPOILER FILLED looks at the Honor Harrington series and related works by David Weber and collaborators. I’ve read the whole main series and the overwhelming majority of the offshoots, but some of these will still be first time reads. However, spoilers will be abundant throughout these posts, including for much later books in the series.

On Basilisk Station by David Weber

We’re back to where it all began. On Basilisk Station is our introduction to Honor Harrington, as well as a number of other major players in the series and our first glimpses at what will turn out to be a much wider conflict. I’ve read this book four or five times now, and I keep finding things I enjoy in it. This time, I was intentionally paying much more attention to the side names that pop up, and was surprised by how many Weber packs into this first book in the series. It’s clear he was at least thinking of the long game from the outset.

What makes this book most impressive to me, though, is how well it balances a razor-sharp focus on an escalating conflict centered around Basilisk with hints of broader conflict and political action happening around it. That’s one of the biggest draws to the series, of course. At times, the back and forth between action “on the ground” (read: largely in space) and people sitting around board rooms talking about making action happen can get uneven. Here, though, we see Weber at a focused, exciting pace that still throws enough reveals out there to whet appetites for broader discussion.

Horrible Hemphill shows up right away- she’s of course the subject of an extremely pivotal character scene for Honor much later in the series when Honor and Hamish Alexander fight over how seriously to take Hemphill’s new takes on weapons’ systems and more. Here, she acts a bit as a stooge, including for the delightful final scene in which Harrington is asked enthusiastically to provide (presumably positive) feedback on the weapon systems from the Fearless. Whether Weber intended to make Hemphill a point of recurring interest or not, it was a smart move to include someone here to shake things up. The added wrinkle of Fearless having armament that doesn’t make sense increases the tension and also makes the final battle more satisfying.

Our first look at Honor feels very fresh still. It’s just a well written, classic sci-fi scene. We quickly get a look into McKeon’s head as well, as we discover he knows he’s bitter but can’t quite break out of it. This little insight into his thought process makes it all the more satisfying to watch him finally break out, largely urged on by Honor’s gentle handling of the situation throughout the book. We also run int Pavel Young for the first time, and here he’s eager to immediately abandon the station. He has little agency in the noel; mostly acting as villain from afar.

Another major plot point is having Honor show up for the first time on Hamish Alexander’s radar. Obviously this will become a much more important relationship later in the series, but it’s fun to see him running around using back alley means to protect Honor’s work actually making Basilisk station into a competent command. Yet another major player introduced here is Denver Summervale, and I can’t believe I missed this the last few times I read it. Here, he’s a throwaway character, making it all the more surprising how important he becomes later. I wonder if Weber was thinking along those lines already or whether it just came to him to reuse this character. Klaus Hauptman rounds out the series of major players introduced. Having McKeon be the one to stare him down is a great twist from Weber, which both makes McKeon more relatable and Honor more interesting for restraining herself–barely.

It seems notable how Nimitz is largely a non-entity throughout this book. He does very little other than act as a kind of smart shoulder ornamentation for Honor. In fact, I was pretty shocked by how very little he does given how totally we fall in love with him later in the series. We have a cat named after Nimitz, ourselves.

Some early history of Manticore is provided, largely as background for why Hauptman is such a tool. However, even this comes into play in some of the offshoot series. I haven’t read the ones about the rise of Manticore, so I’m excited on this read-through to take that aside, finally.

Let’s be real: I don’t know of anyone who writes ship-to-ship sci-fi battles better than Weber. They’re always exciting, always full of tension, and always fun to read even on subsequent reads. I never find myself skimming these, and the battle between Fearless and Sirius is a thrilling read. Each hit is visceral, and I don’t really care about what physics may or may not have been violated here. There’s a feel of impact of the events, tension ratcheting up as each side exchanges salvos. It’s so well done. Jumping back and forth between captains and crew increases the excitement and engagement as we see casualties pouring in while others frantically try to keep the ship running while others are making life or death decisions about the whole ship. It’s pretty amazing to me how well this battle scene holds up after the later ones when we have huge fleets blowing each other up. This, probably the tiniest scale action in the whole series between ships, is still a great read.

The slaughter of the Medusans hit me a bit odd this go-round. I’m not entirely sure how big the colonies and human settlement on Medusa is supposed to be. It seems, though, that a total and complete, wholesale devastation of literally thousands of Medusans may not have been the best solution. These are sentient beings, and they’re drugged into a murderous rage to serve the whims of various colonizing powers. It just hit me wrong, I guess. I wonder what other means could have been tried.

Near the end, we hear a bit about the “Big Lie” theory, which feels incredibly relevant today. Essentially, it’s the idea that a government or officials therein can say something so absurd people will believe it because they’ll just assume people will think they have proof, lest they get caught in an absurd lie. Unfortunately, many today are caught up in a number of big lies, whether it is conspiracy theories about election fraud or something else, this part of the book feels more not less relevant than it did when I read it the first time.

What are your thoughts on the book? What scenes struck you? Leave comments below!

Links

The Great Honor Harrington Read Along– Follow along as I read through and review all the books and offshoots in this series!

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SDG.

SPSFC Book Review: “Dog Country” by Malcolm F. Cross

Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

Dog Country follows the story of Edane, a geneforged dog-person who was created to be a soldier. The powers that be, however, had to acquiesce to citizens’ demands to end the program, and Edane and others were “emancipated”–set free to live by others’ definitions of a “normal” life. Readers follow Edane (and a few other intermittent viewpoints) as he tries to navigate this new world.

Janine is Edane’s girlfriend, and some of the best scenes in the story take place between these two as Edane attempts to figure out how to even express himself. He struggles to live by the standards of what is “normal” and joins up with a MilSim team trying to work its way up the ranks in a simulated combat game. There’s no small amount of discussion of what runaway capitalism could do. This especially looms large in the way the main plot takes off as the geneforged dogs start a crowdfunding campaign to depose a dictator. The campaign is a runaway success and Edane ultimately joins on for real battle, trying to find his own place in the world and meaning for himself. As readers follow the intense action scenes, flashbacks abound to Edane’s first combat action two years earlier.

The action is great, with strategic and tactical decisions abounding. It doesn’t take up much space in the story, but when it’s there, it absolutely delivers. I’m not an expert on military action, merely a fan of military sci-fi and history, and I found it satisfying each time the military action showed up. The political and civil issues raised loom large, but aren’t explored in great depth. Nonetheless, they do create breaks in the intense story of Edane’s life and background that are welcome.

I do have one minor complaint about the novel, which is that I wish the larger stakes had been made more clear. Specifically, while there’s plenty to wonder about here, the premise takes a little bit away from the stakes. We don’t have genetically engineered super-soldiers made from animals (or other geneforged people, for that matter) around. That means many of the questions raised are hypothetical. You have to be invested in the characters–which I quickly was–in order for much of the conflict to feel pressing. Of course, all of this also seems to be an extended metaphor for PTSD, with the geneforged problems standing in as problems with PTSD, and that immediately ups the stakes and brings it all together.

As a side note, I especially appreciated how many women (or at least female geneforged people) were major characters given voices in the book. Edane’s mothers have numerous great moments including some brief discussions of motherhood that are touching. Janine equally is a fully-fleshed out character dealing with her own difficulties as a geneforge. It’s great to see. Also, that cover is to die for. I definitely think it’s among the best covers in the contest.

Dog Country is yet another proof that self- and indie-published books can be and often are superb. It’s an excellent book from beginning to end, with strong characterization, a solid plot, and difficult questions. Fans of thoughtful speculative fiction should dive in immediately, and the military sci-fi aspect of it is strong enough to appeal to fans of the same. Highly recommended.

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SDG.

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.

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!

SDG.

SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 3

There were 5 slots left on my “yes” list for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest but 15 books in the running. That means I need to eliminate 2 out of every 3 books. To do so, I decided to commit to fully reading these 15 books (or, minimally, reading until I decide it’s not for me) and pitting them against each other for the final 5 slots. I had to re-think my reading to do this, because I enthusiastically put too many books on the “yes” stack to start off. So, for the sake of seeding, each former “yes” goes up against two “maybe” books (except for one post where two higher seeds will face off).

Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

Dog Country is a military science fiction novel about geneforged dog-people who were created for war only to find there’s no war waiting for them in adulthood. Honestly, this is one of the most thoughtful books in our selection, in my opinion. Time and again, there are problems with our major protagonist, Edane, attempting to adapt to the “real world” and away from war. Then, a crowdfunded war to oust a totalitarian regime gets underway and we get some solid military sci-fi action that feels believable and surprisingly intense at times. Edane struggles to find out how to express himself to his girlfriend, Janine, and takes comfort from the his two adoptive mothers. The inter-character relationships are of utmost importance in the book, and I found it impossible not to get deeply invested in Edane’s story and struggles. There are shades of the big questions asked in books like The Forever War, but with a twist because they involve hypothetical situations of future weapons and technology. I hugely enjoyed this novel.

The Coldsuit by Andy Wright

First contact with a twist- our main character grew up effectively a slave laborer for an alien species. Ry grew up believing a lie, and as he discovers the truth, he starts to fight back against it. The plot and characters are interesting, but they didn’t draw me in to this twist on the dystopic genre. Yep, it’s a dystopia but it’s aliens this time instead of some far off human power (as in The Hunger Games). I’d recommend this to people who truly can’t get enough of dystopias, and I’d recommend it to them pretty strongly. For me, it read as too familiar. However, based on how the rest of my group thinks, this might end up on our group’s collective “Yes” pile.

The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King

I wrote in my initial impression of this book that I was interested in finding out more about what powers were at work, whether it was urban fantasy, and more about the characters. Now that I’ve finished, I sort of have the same questions in my mind. The plot meanders quite a bit and I’m still not convinced about how the protagonist’s powers work. It’s a decent yarn, but unfortunately won’t be moving on past this round for me.

Round 1 Status

Round 3 of the Battle Royale had some super heavy hitters. Each of these books seems worthy in its own ways, and I won’t be unhappy should my group select others of them for our group reads. For me, though Dog Country stood canine head and (furry) shoulders above the rest. It’s just a fabulous character piece told with excruciatingly powerful moments scattered throughout some solid action sequences. Fans of military or thoughtful sci-fi should consider it a must-read. Coldsuit, again, reads as a very good dystopic setup, but I found myself skimming after a while with a sense of having been there before. The Lore of Prometheus is another intriguing plot with good characters, but I was a bit confused by everything as I approached the end. Again, any of these seems a good read, so if you’re yearning for some indie reads, go grab them and read them! Let me know what you thought of them in the comments.

All links to Amazon are affiliates.

Links

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.

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!

SDG.

The Day I Discovered Japanese Military Science Fiction

all-killThere  have been a few movies in the past which have sent me scrambling to find the book afterwards. None, I think, will I mark as important as “Edge of Tomorrow” (check out my look at the themes in the movie). The book that inspired the brilliant film is All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. I decided to pick up the book because I enjoyed the movie so much and had heard it was worth reading. Thank God I did!I found some really fascinating elements spread throughout the book, like sacrifice, comments on truth, and human nature.

Mark it: 6/27/14 was the day  I discovered Japanese Military Science Fiction. Yes, I already liked military sci fi. David Weber is my favorite author with his masterful Honor Harrington series. But All You Need Is Kill comes from a different cultural perspective–one in which the individual is not valued so much as the group. It reflected throughout the novel.

Then, at the end, there was an advertising page. Apparently the publisher, Haikasoru, has brought over more Japanese military sci-fi.

It is now time to devour these works. I must have more! All You Need Is Kill was just fantastic. It was a short book, but dense–each page seemed to be dripping with development. The characters received more development than one would think possible in 200 pages. It was a masterwork, if I’m going to be honest.

I can’t wait to dive in and read more.

Have you read any Japanese Military Sci-Fi? If so, what have you read? What other branches of sci-fi am I missing out on? Let me know in the comments!