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Posts Tagged ‘David Weber’

A Review of Bolo!

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 15, 2016

Bolo! (Bolo, #14)Bolo! by David Weber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bolo! isn’t necessarily a bad book. It’s just that it’s not that great either, at least not by David Weber’s standards. Apparently, one Keith Laumer created the Bolo decades ago. It’s an uber-tank, one with so many uber-weapons on it, everyone in the universe knows of it and is terrified of it. Just one alone can defend an entire planet. One can level an entire city while shooting down warships attacking the planet. It’s farfetched, but intriguing as a premise. And apparently, many authors have written stories and books with Bolos as their theme. This Weber book is a compilation of some short stories he wrote, mostly during the 1990s, collected here in one volume. It could be decent, but it’s not exactly what I expect from Weber, so I didn’t finish it.

The first story is about an old Bolo, about 80 years old, left unattended on this backwater planet, sent a new Naval commander. But the late former commander had made some “adjustments” to this Bolo and it has become essentially sentient. Its name is Nike and it thinks about its old and new commanders and analyzes everything at all times, searching for threats. The new commander, Merritt, realizes pretty quickly what he has on his hands and he doesn’t inform his chain of command because he doesn’t want his new toy taken from him. But he begins to develop an unusual and somewhat unrealistic affection for Nike, and this is what began to turn me off to the story. He starts treating Nike like a woman, like a girlfriend/mistress/lover and refers to her (it has a female voice, as it was programmed to have one by its late female commander) as “darling” and “love.” It’s a little too icky for me to like or buy.

An evil corporation wants to run the population off this planet because it’s just become a newly important junction in a trade route, so it hires a mercenary team, does some research and surveillance, discovers the Bolo and buys the mercenaries new tactical equipment, including two “generic” Bolos of their own. Then they invade. You can guess the rest of the story. The human and machine lovers ride off to their deaths into the sunset, defending the planet with their blood and … motor oil? It’s very touching. Yep. A bit overly dramatic, I’d call it. Way too dramatic. So damn dramatic, I decided not to read any more stories, as I figured I’d read just about enough on the Bolos that I could, why endure more?

Weber can write a great series. He has several and I have all of the books. He also usually writes great battle scenes. But his standalone books usually lack something. Such is the case with this one. It doesn’t have the usual Weber touch. It’s just too corny. Two stars or three? Three stars because the Bolos really are cool weapons. However, not recommended.

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A Review of The Road to Hell

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 26, 2016

The Road to Hell (Multiverse, #3)The Road to Hell by David Weber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, what an awesome book! It was so worth the wait. The Road to Hell is the third book in the Multiverse series, a series that began in 2006 by David Weber and Linda Evans. The next book was published in 2008, I believe, and stopped. Word got out that Weber’s collaborator’s health was poor, so the series was put on hold indefinitely. People lost hope for a new entry in the series, which would have been a disappointment because the first two books were so compelling. And now, as of March 1st of this year, Weber and a new collaborator, Joelle Presby, have finally put out the third book. Geez, it’s good. Just what I needed after how badly things had gone for the good guys in the first two books.

The war between magically-gifted Arcana, the “bad” guys, and psionically talented Sharona, the “good” guys, continues to rage. The dragon-borne Arcanan assault across five universes has been halted at Fort Salby by an extremely desperate defense, but at a horrible cost. Prince Janaki, heir to the Sharonian Empire, went knowingly to his death in defense of the empire. It was critical to stop the Arcanans because they were torturing and executing their Sharonian prisoners, especially the “Voices,” or telepath communicators used by the military and civilian commands to communicate from universe to universe. For weeks, no one had known there even WAS an invasion because no one had heard anything from any Voices. They were all dead. Fort Salby stopped that. And I, and probably all of the other readers, wanted vengeance. Demanded it. And we started getting it in this book. ‘Bout damn time too! While the defenders held the pass at Fort Salby, the newly mechanized Sharonian advanced strike force, went through other universes traveling thousands of miles over the course of three months to take back all but one of the universes and their forts, all without alerting the Arcanan army. Sweet.

We also see the sacrifice, it seems, of Janaki’s younger sister, Princess Andrin, now heir of Sharona, to be wed to a Uromathian prince in order to establish the new Sharonian Empire. But no one wants that except for the Uromathian emperor and his sons. Wait until you find out how Andrin and her advisers solve this puzzle!

Another major part of the story line in this book is the trial of the “good” Arcanan, Jasak, a court martial, where he is defended by his new fiancé and his two Sharonian prisoners he has taken in as family members. I was worried about this court martial for three straight books. It’s finally here.

Of course, since it’s part of an ongoing series (I hope it’s ongoing again), the authors had to stop at a critical point where I had to know what happens next, just so I’ll buy the next book that comes out, damn them, but I can’t wait until the next one and it’ll be a long time. I’ll probably reread the series a couple of times before it arrives on the shelves.

I loved this book. It had mystery, intrigue, sci fi/fantasy elements, character development, action, passion, tactics, etc. In short, just what you want out of a book. Very recommended, particularly if you’re reading the series. Five stars.

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A Review of Crusade

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 20, 2016

Crusade (Starfire, #2)Crusade by David Weber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crusade, written in 1992, years before the Honor and Safehold series’, is David Weber doing what Weber does best. There are tons of excellent space battles which, after all, is his very best skill and talent. There are religious zealots, in this case, human-related aliens, led by bishop and archbishop generals who, as in the Safehold series, are sadistic, genocidal nutjobs. Why Weber decided at some point in his life that bishops and religious leaders would make good and believable generals is beyond me, but after reflection, I guess they don’t because after their initial victories and genocides, they usually seem to get their asses kicked by the “good” guys, so let that be a lesson to you, bad religious guys!

Also, there are “bad” politicians in the book, getting in the way of the military, not letting it do its job, trying to draw it down, get their own glory, fight their own stupid personal battles, generally be idiots, until the patriotic military dude wins the day and lets the military make its own tactical battle decisions, etc., and then and only then does the military start to win. Obviously, religious nuts and politicians are evil.

Oh yes, the Orions are the “good” aliens. The Thebans, the “bad” aliens/former Terrans, escaped the original Terran/Orion war a century or so ago through a wormhole no one has ever come out of and apparently thinks the Orions are still evil and humankind is still at war with them, thus when the Thebes appear out of said wormhole 100 years later, they fire on an Orion ship and the war begins. Of course, they are there to return mankind to Holy Terra’s original state, or what they think it should be according to their “holy” works as written by some freak a long time ago. Since the Terrans are now allied with the Orions, they are now polluted by the Satan Orions and must be eliminated, so off to the concentration camps with them and let’s execute as many as possible. Of course, there are resistance groups, and since they’re “good” Terrans, they’re smart and they outsmart the Thebes and, as is often the case with Weber, one of the high ranking Thebans, in this case the leading admiral, begins to have doubts about their mission and even their origin, as well as their treatment of the prisoners, so he defects to the Terran side, and with his help, the Terrans carry the battle to Thebes and all is well with the universe. Yay rah. No seriously, good book. Great battles, as always with Weber. I am reading a Jack Campbell series (The Lost Fleet) right now and while it’s okay, and while the space battles have great cover blurbs (of course), they can’t even compare at all with Weber. No one can. He’s simply the best. Of course, he has annoying habits that just get worse with each book he publishes: the number of characters, their stupid names and titles, the infodumps, etc. But he can do a battle like no other.

This book is part of an old series. I know this because I’ve read another Terran/Orion book. I don’t know the name of the series though and it’s not listed anywhere in the book where I can find it. I’d be interested in reading more, even though it’s old and not as good as his later series’, simply because these books are very action packed and tension filled and good indicators of his books to come. He even uses names we’ll see in future series’, like Manticore, Saint-Just, etc. I’d love to give this book five stars and I’m tempted to. I’m not sure I shouldn’t. But I’ve read too many five star books by Weber and I’m not sure this is on par with those numerous five star books. This is close, but not quite as good. Or is it? It’s a tough call. You know what? It was a really good book with a lot of drama, a lot of great action, a lot of tension, a lot of suspense, some really great battles. I see no reason not to give it five stars, so I guess I will after all. I can’t justify not giving it five stars. So five it is and recommended. And yes, the book stands on its own. Read it.

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A Review of Cauldron of Ghosts

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 1, 2016

Cauldron of Ghosts (Honor Harrington - Crown of Slaves)Cauldron of Ghosts by David Weber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh man, what a book! What a hell of a book! That was one of the best damn books I’ve ever read. So why only four stars? Cause the last few pages, the ending, is so anti-climactic and incomplete and leaves you panting for justice and revenge and more and more and it’s damned cruel of Weber to do this to us and I’ve NEVER felt so let down by an ending in my life!

This is the third book in what is probably a final book of an Honor Harrington sub-series trilogy called the Crown of Slaves Series, starring Manticorian superspy Anton Zilwecki, Havenite superspy Victor Cachet, Torch General Thandi Plame, and assorted other characters, many of whom we get to know quite well, some of whom we don’t. This book largely takes place on Mesa itself, home of genetic slave breeders and builders and destroyers of the human race, whom Manticore, Haven, Torch, Beowolfe, and the Audobon Ballroom have all found out the truth about and are about to come down on its heads, so the secretive Mesan Allignment is conducting Operation Houdini and disappearing thousands of its top people from the planet to places unknown, through nukes being blamed on ex-slave terrorist’s Ballroom, literally nuking their own population and causing a killing bloodlust among the Mesans for the slaves and seccies. Victor and Thandi have helped the local crime bosses set up to defend their areas of the city from the Mesan police and military and the fighting is gruesome with a take no prisoners approach. People, good and bad, die, are blown to smithereens, while our heroes hope that Zilwicki has reached Harrington and is bringing a Manticorian fleet back to Mesa to save them and to break the Mesan Allignment. Just as some of our heroes have committed suicide by bombs to save others and just as Cachet is about to blow himself and the entire 400 floor building they’re in to smithereens, a report comes in that some ships have been spotted in orbit. And that’s where it ends. AAARRRGGHHH!!! Okay, you can probably safely assume they’re Manticorian. But it’s never safe to assume anything, especially in Weber novels. How do we know these aren’t Solarian League ships? Whose ships are these? How do we even know they’re warships? It’s implied Honor’s friend, Mike, Admiral Henke, is riding command over this small fleet into Mesa, but it’s never actually said. We don’t know. So we don’t know if Victor and Thandi are saved, and all the others. We don’t know what happened to the thousands of Mesans who escaped via Operation Houdini. We don’t know what’s happening to the Mesan security forces. We don’t know what’s happening on Torch. We don’t know what’s happening with the other seccie rebellions about Mesa. We don’t know where Zilwicki is. We don’t know much of anything, dammit! So UNSATISFYING!!! So, this book had so much tension and so much action and so much intrigue and so much mystery and so much plotting and so much of just about anything you’d want out of some good military sci fi or some good Weber, but even though it’s among the best I’ve ever read and that means it’s a five star book, easily, I’m knocking it down to four stars because it’s at best, a two star ending. Geez, the last 10 pages make it a two star ending. Unreal. I simply can’t believe he’s leaving us that unsatisfied. And if rumors are true and this is the last book in the series, I’ll be forever unsatisfied and that will seriously piss me off. Weber does this to me. My wife hates him as a result. He’s pretty much the best writer I’ve ever seen. He can spin a tale like no other, can write battle scenes like no one else. But he’s got these damn annoying habits that drive you insane and make you want to punch him in the face. Shit! Safehold series, prime example. The names are ridiculous. The titles are ridiculous. The never-ending war is ridiculous. The story being told at the speed of sludge so I might finish it by the time I die is ridiculous. Dammit, Weber! Come on now, you have fans. You owe it to us to help us out. Geez. So, IF you’re reading this series, strongly, strongly recommended. If you’re not reading this series, you won’t understand anything that’s going on, so don’t read it. Great book.

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A Review of Crown of Slaves

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 4, 2016

Crown of Slaves (Honorverse: Wages of Sin, #1)Crown of Slaves by David Weber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Crown of Slaves is the first book in a new Honor Harrington sub-series called Wages of Sin focusing on Mesa-Manpower and the newly liberated ex-slaver planet of Torch. As I have figured out, these several sub-series’ are really required reading if one wants to get additional necessary pieces of information to fill in the gaps in the Honor series when it comes to things such as Torch, the Zilwickis, Haven super spy Victor Cachat, the whole Mesa-Manpower mystery/disaster in action, etc. This is a truly necessary series. This is a pretty good book and I’m already halfway through the second one.

Due to the complete incompetence of Manticore’s Queen Elizabeth’s current government, the tenuous alliance between the Star Kingdom of Manticore and its ally Erewhon is on the verge of dissolution, so the queen sends her niece, Ruth Winton, a spy-wannabe in training, as an “unofficial” representative to a state funeral to try to patch things up. And that’s where the story starts. The mission begins with Ruth, led by Manticore’s super spy, Anton Zilwicki, and his teenage daughter, Berry, off to Erewhon. It turns into quite the espionage incident, as Manticore, Solarian League, Havenite, Erewhon, Masadan fanatics, and Mesan groups all meet and engage in some way in this book, at times quite violently, while Berry and Ruth survive an assassination attempt with the help of Havenite Cachat, aided by Solarian marine lieutenant Thandi Palane, a most larger-than-life character. The two of them develop a relationship that is sweet and readers will quickly come to like the two characters, even if Victor is a cold-blooded killer.

Before the blood can dry, Victor leads a group of people on a mission to the planet, Congo, Manpower’s slave planet, to liberate the slaves and the planet. He and they do and for some bizarre reason, 17-year-old Berry, with a phenomenal personality who has really taken to the ex-slaves, is elected queen of the inhabitants of the newly renamed planet of Torch, with Ruth her intelligence director and Thandi, with the help of her “Amazon” warriors (who are a fun group of women in this book) installed as her military leader, and Audubon Ballroom terrorist leader Jeremy X installed as Minister of War. Of course, her father Anton will stay and help out with intelligence for an indefinite period of time, as will Victor. Both are intent upon penetrating Mesa-Manpower. And both are concerned about Mesa-Manpower’s attempts to get to Berry and others on Torch, with good reason, as we shall see.

This isn’t necessarily the best Honorverse book I’ve read, but I’d be hard pressed to name another that’s better. Of course, none of them really measure up to one of the better Honor books, but that’s to be expected. Still, it’s a good sub-series and I’m enjoying the second book more than the first. I’d love to give this book five stars, but I don’t think it’s a five star book. Still, it’s a solid four star book and easily recommended.

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A Review of The Excalibur Alternative

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 25, 2016

The Excalibur Alternative (Earth Legions, #3)The Excalibur Alternative by David Weber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Honestly, I initially had a hard time getting into this book. It was a struggle. But it was Weber and he’s usually quite good, so I kept slogging on and am I ever glad I did. By the time I was halfway through, I knew it was pretty good. By the time I was 75% of the way through, I was convinced it was damn brilliant. By the time I finished late last night, I was convinced I had just finished one of the best military sci fi novels I had ever read and I’m deeply disappointed there is apparently no sequel. I actually feel honored to have read such a masterpiece! This was a true work of art. Weber can tell a story like no other and while he can get bogged down in infodumps and can drive readers nutty with irritating habits, such as using stupid names and titles and reusing the same words over and over again (people “nod” and “shrug” and “bare their teeth” and “pinch the bridge of their nose” in most of his novels), it’s less frequent in this book than in most of his other books, for which I was grateful.

The synopsis of this book lies in a small fleet of 14th Century English knights and their army on their way to fight in France, fighting for their lives in a bad storm and losing the battle. With half the fleet having been lost and the remaining ships about to go down, an alien spacecraft from the Galactic Federation rescues Sir George Wincaster and his army of knights and longbowmen from certain death at sea and forces the Englishmen to act as slave/mercenaries to fight intergalactic battles against other “primitive” species throughout the universe on various planets where advanced weapons are banned. Sir George is a master tactician and is told by his “Commander” that he and his people will die if they lose a battle, so they have an incentive to win – every time – and they do. Over and over again. And they and their families go into “stasis” sleep during flights between planets, thus living hundreds of years while aging merely several years at a time, all the while hating their “demon-jester” Commander who kills their fellows as “object lessons” and has other alien species as guards and a godlike colleague named “Computer” who can monitor the humans’ conversations and converse with them virtually anywhere, but ensures that they must watch what they say at all times.

Apparently, there are 22 “civilized” races or I guess civilizations in the Federation overseeing hundreds of barbaric protectorics or other types of planets, all of which are subject to complete annihilation at the hands of the Federation with no qualms whatsoever, as the inhabitants of these planets, as barbaric uncivilized nonentities, are fortunate to even be allowed to live at the pleasure of the Federation. Earth, however presents a problem because it has and can develop technologically faster than most other civilizations and represents a long term potential threat.

Sir George and his people desperately want their freedom, desperately want to kill their ruthless and thoughtless and brutal Commander and to their surprise, some 350 years into their adventures, one of the alien species acting as guards on the gigantic ship they are on present a tiny possible way to do this, but they have to act quickly and decisively and if they fail, they all die. Additionally, Earth will almost certainly die and they will have to join this “dragon-man” species in finding a new planet to colonize and create a new human colony for the race to begin over again. It’s a very tense moment in the book.

I won’t describe what happens next, but it’s climactic, to a certain degree. But there’s more. Jump ahead hundreds of years. To Earth, which has been in contact with the Federation for over 100 years and which has been using antiquated Federation technology to build its own Navy as quickly as possible, knowing they can never match the Federation’s military capability. Fast forward to a Federation ultimatum put to Earth’s government which they are willing to meet, only to be told, off the record, by the local Federation fleet admiral that nothing they do will be acceptable, that they are to be exterminated. The human admiral is devastated, knowing the human race is literally about to be wiped out forever and ever, within hours. Can anything possibly save humanity? Can anyone or anything stand against the Federation?

It’s a quick, climactic ending to the book after a long, drawn out build up to this point, and that’s a little disappointing, but the duel ending, while short and sweet, does not at all disappoint and it’s pretty damn awesome. Could the Federation actually be in trouble and not even know it? Pretty awesome if that’s true. A lot of stuff is explained at the end of the book, classic Weber infodump which I actually didn’t mind for once, but what it amounted to was hope for the future and a personal hope and desire for a damn sequel, which I’m not getting. So that blows. But suffice it to say that the ending, again, while rushed, was eminently satisfying and partially mind blowing. No, completely mind blowing. I loved it! This isn’t Weber’s best book at all, but quite good, very good. But as a stand alone, especially, it’s quite excellent and very enjoyable and, for me, it’s a strong five star book and well worth the read. Definitely recommended!

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A Review of The Shadow of Saganami

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 2, 2016

The Shadow of Saganami (Honorverse: Saganami, #1)The Shadow of Saganami by David Weber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Shadow of Saganami is an Honorverse spinoff of the brilliant Honor Harrington series that I really didn’t want to start reading, but I had been reading so much about the several sub-series’ spinoffs and how they elaborate on key plot elements, that I decided to go ahead. And I’m glad I did. Of course, the book didn’t feature Honor and I missed her, and it’s a whole new cast of characters, but you quickly get to know them and care about them and, as it’s a long, long, comprehensive David Weber book, you end up feeling a connection with a number of them by the end of the book.

Saganami Island is Mantictore’s version of the US Naval Academy and this book follows the careers of several recent graduates, most in their first post-graduate assignments as midshipmen. They are assigned to the heavy cruiser HMS Hexapuma, headed by Captain Aivars Terekhov, a mysterious, intense man who is suffering from PTSD due to a terrible battle he survived with a Haven fleet some time before. No one knows if he’s recovered and everyone wonders how he’ll react under pressure.

They are assigned to the Talbot Cluster, a cluster of planetary systems on the verge of the Solarian League near Manticore’s newly discovered Lynx Junction. The planets of the Talbot Cluster have just overwhelming voted in favor of being annexed by the Star Kingdom of Manticore and are drafting a constitution. However, there are some dissidents and some Solly-related planets and corporations willing to arm and aid these dissidents in rebellion in attempts to destabilize their governments and destroy the constitutional convention and the annexation. Of course, if this happens, the Solarian Frontier Security will move in and take over the Cluster and those worlds will be doomed.

The plot of this book is too detailed and far too complex to go into in a significant review of this type. The Hexapuma joins the few Manticoran ships in the area for patrol and support of the cluster’s systems and meanwhile terrorists are blowing up people and planets, aided by mysterious strangers with modern weapons. Terekhov ultimately discovers the secret behind the plot and moves a squad he has called together against a star system to engage in a typical Weber space battle, which is handled pretty well, if a little subdued for Weber. There’s a great deal of tension in this novel and that makes it engaging and interesting. Some of the interesting new characters include Lt Abigail Hearns and Midshipwoman Helen Zilwicki, among others. We’ll see them again in other Honorverse books.

Even though this is a good book and rather enjoyable, I do have a complaint and it’s not unique to Weber. There are, per usual with this author, way too many characters to keep up with. Not only are there a ton of naval officers to try and remember, but there are a ton of system politicians to try and keep track of and it’s virtually impossible to do so. To make matters worse, the Talbot Cluster is larger than I ever imagined and we’re introduced to what seems like a ton of planetary systems. Somehow, we’re supposed to keep track of worlds like Spindle, Pontifex, Split, San Miguel, Montana, Rembrandt, Kornatia, Nuncio, Mesa, Dresden, Monica, Torch, and of course, Grayson and Manticore, among others, and there are also scenes featuring Manpower, the Jessyk Combine, and Technodyne Corp., the “evil” corporations behind all that’s wrong with the picture in this puzzle. It’s just too much. And of course, all of these planets and corporations have presidents, vice presidents, admirals, boards of directors, police chiefs, various naval ships, most of which are obsolete by Manticoran standards, and so on. It’s damned annoying and stupid!

Whatever the case, this is a good book. It’s got a good plot, introduces an interesting new cast of characters, has a couple of decent naval battles, has some ground battles, has some political intrigue, if that’s your game, and fills in a lot that’s left out in the main Honor books. However, it’s typically long, at times it drags, the plot can be a little convoluted and somewhat scattered, the names of characters and planets are just too much and too many to make the book enjoyable, and it’s a little galling to think that this is the first book in an Honor sub-series, one of several, information that can’t actually be told in a real Honor book, which is annoying. Worthy of five stars? Not quite. But certainly worthy of four stars. A solid four star effort. And definitely recommended.

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A Review of Hell Hath No Fury

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 19, 2015

Hell Hath No Fury (Multiverse, #2)Hell Hath No Fury by David Weber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second in the Multiverse series created by David Weber and Linda Evans, Hell Hath No Fury is quite excellent. If one can stomach quite a bit of violence. For violent it is. Two separate worlds in two separate universes, each exploring new alternate universes through portals they’ve discovered, encounter each other in the first book. And Arcana, the magical, militaristic culture run entirely by spells attacks a civilian survey crew from Sharona, which is a technology-based world, of a WW I era of technology, including rifles, revolvers, artillery, etc. Both sides suffer casualties, but while Arcana takes two prisoners, both of whom are presumed dead by Sharona, and one of them is the most popular woman in their universe, Sharona exacts their revenge on Arcana. So Arcana sends out some “diplomats,” asking to negotiate, not shoot. Things seem odd, but the Sharonans decide to negotiate in good faith, as they don’t want an interstellar war. Meanwhile, the devious Arcanans are moving up thousands of troops and dozens of battle and transport dragons to attack the Sharonans and invade their portals and take as many as possible into Sharonan territory. In doing so, they’ve lied to their troops, telling them their most popular citizen was killed by Sharanon troops when in fact it was an Arcanan who killed him. And they know that. They’re itching to start an interstellar war, but they have no orders to do so. One rogue mid-level officer has ordered this and now tens of thousands of lives are at stake.

Meanwhile, we meet Crown Prince Janaki, heir to the Sharonan throne, detailed to take some prisoners home and accompany Voice Darcel Kinlafia, the man who “saw” the original slaughter and alerted all of Sharona to what had happened. Janaki is a good man and talks Kinlafia into going ahead of him to run for Parliament, where he might be able to do some good. He, like his whole royal family, has Glimpses and knows his destiny lies in dying in defense of a major portal fort several universes away. His father, Zindel, and his sister, Andrin, not yet 18, both have strong Glimpses and are deeply worried. A Conclave is called and a world government is called for to unify the world’s countries and their armies into one, all presumably to be led by Zindel. Unfortunately, one Chava Busar, Emperor of Uromathia, is holding everything up, refusing to give his approval to this arrangement unless Zindel’s son marries one of his daughters, thus putting his grandchild on the empire’s throne at some point in the future. Many people are ticked, but Zindel agrees and the time is set for putting this all together.

So, the time has come for the Arcanans to attack. And they do, with 14,000 men against 800 Sharonans. And they lose a battle dragon or two, which shocks them, even though they annihilate all Sharonans. There are three types of battle dragons. One breathes fire, one throws lightning bolts, the third breathes poison gas, killing the most people. They are their secret weapon, since the uncivilized, barbaric Sharonans don’t have and have never seen magic.

And they attack a fort. And decimate it. And take prisoners. And torture and slaughter the prisoners. And this becomes a pattern. When Weber, for this is undoubtedly his work, writes bad guys, they are REALLY bad! The Arcanans are evil bastards. They kill all the Voices, since the have learned about the Sharonan VoiceNet and how they use it, and they destroy fort after fort, taking prisoners and torturing and slaughtering them as they go. It seems the only honorable Arcanans are the long distant Jasak Olderhan and Gadrial Kelbryan.

Finally, they reach the big fort, the major fort where Janaki is. Through his Glimpses, he has been able to warn the commander of the impending attack, how it will happen, where it will come from, how to defend, etc. And they’re ready. The battle scene is a typical David Weber battle scene: most excellent. And of course, Janaki dies. The serious problem with that is it leaves Andrin heir to the throne and now Busar is insisting she immediately marry one of his sons and he is gloating his way to the throne. However, as we will hopefully find out in the next book, Kinlafi will have something to say about that and will play a major role in the survival of Sharona. The book ends in a typical Weber cliffhanger stalemate and I’m damned eager to see some Sharonan revenge. The problem for many people is that this book was published in 2007 and there’s been no Book Three. People have been left hanging and they’re not happy about it. Apparently, Linda Evans became quite ill, so the series was discontinued. People ask why Weber didn’t just continue it himself, since it was so quite obviously HIS book. But he didn’t. The good news is, I just learned that Book Three is scheduled for publication in March 2016! With a different co-author. Don’t know what happened to Evans, but I’m damned glad Weber got together with someone to continue an excellent series. The first book was quite good, but this one was better. Lots of action, lots of intrigue. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of Hell’s Gate

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 16, 2015

Hell's Gate (Multiverse, #1)Hell’s Gate by David Weber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hell’s Gate is a newish military sci fi/fantasy series by prolific writer David Weber and Linda Evans. It’s about two separate earth-like universes exploring portals into other similar universes, leading to an unthinkable meeting in one of these alternative universes, by accident. And, to everyone’s shock and horror, both men who see each other shoot at each other simultaneously (although the Arcanan – the “bad” guys – actually shoots first) and kill each other. Unfortunately, the Sharonan team is a small civilian survey team while the Arcanans are a much larger military force and they go after the Sharonans. And they slaughter them, while taking heavy casualties.

Something of note. The interesting premise of this book and series is this: Sharona runs on the standard technology of the early 20th century, complete with standard weaponry such as rifles, revolvers, machine guns, etc., although a certain percentage of the population has “Talent,” and are “Voices” – mental abilities to speak over long distances, etc. They are invaluable for communicating over incredibly long distances in the empire. However, Arcana uses magic to function as a manufacturing/military society. Everything is run by spells and their weapons are both ancient (crossbows) and mythical (fire breathing dragons). The utter shock when both sides encounter each other is huge. Especially when they ultimately find they can’t even communicate, nor can they understand how either civilization can even work.

The only two Sharonian survivors of what turns out to be a mistaken Arcanan attack, Shaylar and Jathmar, are taken prisoner by Sir Jasak Olderhan, an honorable officer who seeks to protect their lives from his own people. He is helped by Magister Gadrial Kelbryan, a Gifted sorceress, for lack of a better description. Unfortunately, it seems the Arcanans are a war-like people, while at the same time, word of this disaster has reached Sharona and people are outraged, especially since Shaylar was the most popular woman in their universe and they mistakenly believe she was killed. Their whole world is shocked, outraged, and terrified of a possible war coming to them and preparations are made for war — troops, logistics, a worldwide Conclave of all the rulers leading to a demand for a universal government, most likely lead by Ternathian emperor Zindel chan Calirath.

The end of the novel is a cliffhanger, as the Arcanans have sent “diplomats” out to seek negotiations with the Sharonans while they move thousands of troops and dozens of dragons to the front for a surprise attack. Sharona won’t know what hit them. And there the book ends. Weber is so good at ending his books like this. It’s damned maddening! So I immediately had to go out and buy the sequel and I’m already halfway through it.

This is a great book with a unique and great premise, but I’m only giving it four stars because there are so many wasted pages of descriptions and explanations of kingdoms and territories and populations and peoples, none of which really matter to the story – they’re just filler. And this book is almost 1,300 pages! It’s the biggest damn book I’ve ever read! If they had cut out the unessential stuff, it probably would have been closer to 800 pages or less. But as I’ve always said of Weber books, I’m convinced he’s paid by the word/page count. He writes really, really long books with tons of completely unnecessary infodumps that you learn to just skim over to save your own sanity. Four stars for what should be a five star book. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of Shadow of Freedom

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 3, 2015

Shadow of FreedomShadow of Freedom by David Weber
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In a word: disappointing. In another word: lame. Frankly, this book sucked. I have given every Honor Harrington book except one five stars, but this barely deserves two. And I feel betrayed. First of all, as I was finishing Honor #13 not too long ago, I was reading reviews of it and a number of them mentioned Shadow of Freedom as being Honor #14, so I immediately ordered it. Lots of people referred to it as Honor #14. People reviewing THIS book — Shadow of Freedom — even refer to it as Honor #14. But it’s not. At all. All Honor books come with the words “an Honor Harrington novel,” or something to that effect, on the cover. This book says it’s part of the “Honorverse.” And when I listed it in Goodreads, it comes up as Saganami #3, an Honor sub-series that I haven’t read, one of at least two such sub-series’. So, imagine my shock when Honor herself doesn’t even appear in this book at all! She’s quoted a couple of times, I guess to make it an Honor-related book, but she’s nowhere to be found. Indeed, only one main character from the Honor series is in this book — Michelle Henke, who has her fleet in the Talbot Quadrant on the edges of the Solarian League. And this book is about her adventures, and the adventures of “independent” world rebels trying to throw off the yoke of Solarian sponsored oppression. The thing that makes it tricky is they’re contacted and given weapons by an agent who claims to represent Manticore, so they naturally assume the Manticorian Navy will come to their aid, all of them. However, he’s a Mesan Alliance agent and is trying to screw Manticore. There are a couple of mildly interesting scenes in the book, but it’s a short book and not too much happens, aside from the usual ungodly amounts of dialogue Weber throws into his books cause he’s apparently paid by the word count. He likes to double his books’ lengths by going dialogue-heavy. All that said, as others have pointed out, the truly damning thing about this book is that at least two chapters are literal total cut and paste chapters from previous Honor books, and that’s unforgivable. Weber doesn’t even have the decency to try and mix them up just a little; he holds his readers in that much disdain. What an asshole. Honestly, Weber can write awesome stories and great battle scenes, but I’ve decided that he must be a royal asshole as a person and I truly don’t like him at all, even as I eagerly await all of his new Honor and Safehold novels. And I hate myself for it. This book is most definitely NOT recommended.

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