hankrules2011

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Posts Tagged ‘space opera’

A Review of Field of Dishonor

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 16, 2015

Field of Dishonor (Honor Harrington, #4)Field of Dishonor by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this Honor Harrington book, the fourth in the series. It’s very different from the first three, where she was the standout star ship captain who battled the Republic of Haven’s numerically superior ships and won. In this book, she’s home on Manticore while her ship is undergoing time consuming repairs. And Pavel Young, her nemesis, is being court martialed for desertion and cowardice, as well as several other things. Two of the charges would result in execution if he is found guilty. The problem is … politics. Manticore wants to press the war with Haven while it has the upper hand, but the liberals in their version of Parliament are completely opposed and they hate Honor with a passion. They think she’s trying to “get” Young, one of their own highly born aristocrats, truth be damned. The other half back Honor and have seen the video truth of Young fleeing in his ship as he is told to return to the fleet to fight Haven. Honor is told that if he is found guilty, it could hurt the war effort, badly, and she’s shocked. She doesn’t understand politics.

We’re spared the trial, but we see the jury deliberate, if you can call it that. There are six, and they are deadlocked and one of them, in favor of Young, is a total asshole. He wants to get Young off on a technicality, even though the others appeal to him by telling him he KNOWS Young fled, he KNOWS, Young disobeyed a direct command, and he still wants to do this? Yes he does. Honor is in the courtroom when the jury returns with their verdict. Young is found guilty on the first three minor counts, but on the two major counts, the jury is deadlocked and his life is spared. However, he is kicked out of the Navy and stripped of his medals and income. Fortune calls, however. His father, an earl, dies in the courtroom. Pavel immediately finds himself an earl in the House of Lords. Is there no justice? Honor is devastated.

She decides to go visit her new estate on Grayson, a backwards world trying to work itself into the present. Women take a backseat to men on this planet, but because Honor saved the planet from destruction in a previous book, she’s given their highest award and the title of homesteader, I think, which entitles her to an estate. But it also includes obligations, because now she would be responsible for the people in her area, her own government, her budget, her military — everything. First, she has to be officially invited in by the sitting homesteaders. No woman has ever worn this medal and there has never been a woman homesteader on this planet and some people are very opposed to Honor’s doing this, but she passes their judgment and begins her rule. Then something very bad happens. Her old pal, Mike, now a star ship captain shows up and tells her that Paul, Honor’s lover, is dead. Has been killed. In a duel. Honor goes ice cold and can think of nothing but justice. She immediately leaves Grayson with her own guard from her “province” and practices her shooting skills on the star ship while going back to Manticore.

What has happened is that Young has hired a professional duelist/hitman to kill Paul, and then goad Honor into a duel so he can kill her too. Young holds Honor responsible for his ills, when it was really his own fault. When she returns, she goes to a bar, finds this man, and goads him into challenging her for a duel. And he smirks because he knows he’s going to kill her. Meanwhile, she’s calm, even as her friends and colleagues are freaking out. One of these men, a mentor of sorts, tells her if she kills him, she’ll be out of the Navy, and if she prepares to duel Young, which is her goal, she’ll be a pariah and will lose everything. She doesn’t care. She just wants justice.

***SPOILER***

On the assigned day, the duelist and Honor meet on a field, complete with the media there in a frenzy, and they are to fire at the drop of a hanky. It flutters in the wind and before the duelist can even get a shot off, she hits him five times, blowing his head off. It’s sweet. I loved it. The Lords go nuts. The media go nuts. But while there, while speaking to the media, she challenges Young to a duel to the death for his murder and another attempted murder of her by some hired assassins that her Grayson team stopped. He freaks out and hides in his mansion. He only leaves to go to the House of Lords. She realizes she can’t get to him, so she does something rather clever. Some time back, she was given a title and admitted to the House of Lords, but she’s never gone. One day, she shows up and invokes a little used rule that a new member can address the group immediately and she is given permission. She throws off her cloak, Young sees her and freaks out. She re-issues her challenge and he has no option but to accept it. They meet on the assigned day, stand back to back and walk forward. When they reach thirty paces, they are to turn and fire on command. One shot at a time. After just a few steps, Honor hears the word, “Down,” and dives, only to be shot in her left shoulder. She rolls to evade the other shots and sees Young standing there with an empty gun staring at her. She puts three bullets in his heart and he is finally, finally, finally dead and out of her life. Sweet, sweet justice. Unfortunately, as she knew would be the case, she is stripped of her captaincy, but not kicked out of the Navy. Just put on half pay and kind of retired. She decides to return to Grayson. As she’s preparing to leave, her mentor comes to visit her and tells her after the furor is over, there will be the war with Haven and they’ll need competent captains and he basically promises her she’ll be back. So there’s hope.

One of the things I loved about this book was Honor’s character development, which was so much more detailed than in previous books. You really get to see her grow and expand, learn and lead, make mistakes, show she’s human, while still performing at a superhuman level. It’s good to know she’s not just a robot. Sometimes the politics got to be a bit much, but as it was integral to the story, I can forgive Weber that. It was odd, however, not to see Honor in any space ship battle scenes. Unusual. I kind of liked it. I don’t know if this is my favorite Honor book — it’s so different — but to me, it’s worth five stars and I won’t hesitate to recommend it at all.

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A Review of In Fury Born

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 13, 2015

In Fury BornIn Fury Born by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man, I love David Weber’s books! He really knows how to write action packed sci fi novels. I admire and enjoy that.

In Fury Born has a 4.19 out of a 5.0 rating on Goodreads, which is pretty darn good, but you’d never realize it by looking at the most recent reviews, many of which are pretty savage. Apparently it’s because this book is based on an earlier book he wrote which contains the second half of this book. What he did with this book was write a 450 page prequel to turn it into a near-900 page beast of a novel, all of which I enjoyed as I hadn’t read that earlier work. So no complaints from me.

Alicia DeVries seems destined for a military career from a young age. She listens to her retired military grandfather tell war stories and her parents fret. She turns out to be brilliant and goes to college quite early, I believe at 14, graduating at 17, before then joining the Marines, which probably disappoints her parents. In one of her first roles as a Marine, she acts as a sniper for her squad and methodically kills tons of bad guys in a bad skirmish. In fact, she distinguishes herself so well, that she’s recruited away to become a part of the Imperial Cadre, the best of the best, the Emperor’s own military force, where there is a cap of some 40,000 soldiers (in a universe of thousands of worlds with billions of people) and where they can’t even meet that standard. The Cadre is bad. They’re augmented, turned into types of human robots with internal computers and medical abilities, and something called the “tick,” which slows things down and enables one to enhance their abilities to do just about anything. They’re fierce. In her first action, Sergent DeVries is sent with a company of some 274 Cadre drop commandos to raid a place, only they drop right into a setup. The bad guys are waiting for them and weapons rip right through them. There are hostages they’re there to rescue, some 600 of them. Alley and her company lose their commanding officers immediately and it becomes apparent that she’s the last remaining officer, even though she’s brand new. She rallies her remaining troops to her and they push through to their target, suffering horrible losses, but giving out horrible losses in return. They make it to the building housing the hostages and gather them together, waiting for Marine reinforcements. Out of the 274 Cadre personnel who went in, nine come out. Alley is one of them. Over 800 bad guys died. For this action (or for the next one — I forget, sorry), she’s given the highest military award there is. Only three living people have it, and one of them is her grandfather. She’s the third. She’s now a living legend, particularly after this next action I won’t go into for time and length of review purposes.

Now, however, it’s become apparent to her that there’s a leak from inside the Cadre to the bad guys and she knows where it’s coming from. They’re always one step ahead of the Cadre waiting for them. Turns out it’s an intelligence officer, a colonel I think, who she goes to confront and pretty much destroys before guards can pull her off of him. The thing is, she could have killed him with one punch, but she wanted him to suffer, so she broke just about every bone he had. As a result, she’s told by her hero and friend, the Brigadier Sir Arthur Keita, that this man is going to be essentially retired, but not punished, as the powers that be don’t want bad publicity. She’s horrified and immediately quits the Cadre.

Whew! That’s a lot. But the book’s only half over. She returns to her parents’ world out in the boonies and is out hunting one day when some pirates who have been terrorizing the various worlds out there descend and kill her family. She returns to find them there and goes freakin’ insane, slaughtering all 23 of them and vowing vengeance upon those who ordered this. She was badly injured in the firefight and is lying in the snow in subzero temperatures when she hears a voice in her head asking her if she’d like vengeance. She said yes. She’s asked if she’ll give anything for it and she agrees, so at this point, in chapter 33, Tisiphone, one of the old Greek Furies, enters her head and vows to help her, keeping her alive for days and keeping her hate alive at the same time. Alley is found and brought to a hospital where she’s heard talking to no one at all, Tisiphone. They think she’s crazy. She’s transferred to a military hospital, where Sir Arthur and her old best friend from the Cadre, now a doctor and a major in the Cadre, join her in an effort to help her. She tells them everything, along with an intelligence specialist. They think she’s probably crazy, but that she believes she’s telling the truth. Who knows, right? Well, Tisiphone spends her time digging into computer systems and learning. At some point she tells Alley it’s time. Time to go seek vengeance. She helps Alley escape and they go to an airfield, where they barely get away and then to an orbiting space yard, where they snag a state of the art war ship with a state of the art AI, which the human pilot, Alley, has to synth mesh with. This is frightening, because in many cases, upon separation, both human and AI go insane, so this is permanent.

The goal is to find the pirates. To do this, they disguise the ship as a freighter and decide to become smugglers in an effort to find their way to the people dealing with the pirates and their stolen goods. The odd thing about the pirates, though, is that they’re not really stealing that much. They’re slaughtering people by the millions and not taking much. Why? They daring the fleet to come looking for them. And how are they getting so close to these worlds without warnings being sent away upon sight? Turns out they’re in Navy fleet ships. A lot of them. They’re traitors, and they go deep into the empire. Traitors everywhere. Alley gets closer and closer. The intelligence agent is on her trail. The brigadier is trying to keep abreast of things. Where will everything lead? The whole universe thinks that Alley is a crazed lunatic who has assaulted Cadre personal, stolen an expensive Navy ship, is armed and dangerous, and has a shoot on sight order. How is she going to get out of this?

Well, I’m not going to give away the ending of the book, but it’s very exciting and very climactic and very satisfying. I only have two complaints. One is, as with all of Weber’s books, he has to name each and every major and minor character one encounters in the 900 pages, thus making it impossible to know who the hell is who, as you’re trying to remember hundreds of names, as well as names of dozens of planets. It’s annoying as hell. Especially since about half of these people get blown to hell in a dozen pages. Did we really need to know their names and titles? Was that really necessary? My brain can only hold so many names at one time. The second complaint is the book is hard sci fi for the first 32 chapters and then, without warning, in the 33rd chapter we have this fantasy element appear in Tisiphone — out of the blue — and then she plays a hugely major role for the rest of the book. It’s jarring. If she had been introduced earlier in the book, it would have been easier to take, but to get a major character halfway through? Well, that’s stretching it.

Still, it’s a very, very good book. I kept turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. It was that exciting. Even though it’s long as hell, I’m sure I’ll read it again. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I strongly recommend it.

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A Review of The Short Victorious War

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 27, 2015

The Short Victorious War (Honor Harrington, #3)The Short Victorious War by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Honor Harrington! She’s a great character in a great series. And it’s nice to have a strong female protagonist in a sci fi novel, which hasn’t always been the case in this genre.

In this book, “Dame” Honor is given the honor of being given the top ship in the Royal Manticoran navy — the Nike. She’s sent out to Hancock to be the flag ship for a junior admiral who turns out to be a great guy and a great supporter of hers. However, when she gets there, her ship has suffered damage on the way and has to be docked to be fixed, which will take many weeks.

Meanwhile, the always broke Republic of Haven is plotting to attack Manticore and take their spoils, counting on their superiority in numbers over Manticore’s smaller, but more technologically advanced armed forces. One of the things I liked about this book is we get a glimpse at the inner workings of Haven’s politicians and military planners. We’re kept abreast of things as they happen. Another interesting facet to the book is that there is a revolution taking place in Haven, and we get to see the beginnings of it.

Another thing I liked about this book is the character development we see in Honor, as opposed to other books. She grows and changes and adapts and becomes nearly human in this book and I appreciated that. In this book, she develops a love interest, which came out of the blue — for me and for her — but she’s happy with it and that’s good. However, she’s so unused to being feminine that she needs help in putting cosmetics on and the scene in which she asks her exec for help is pretty funny.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Honor Harrington book without a huge space battle. The senior admiral has taken the bulk of the ships in the system to another place, gambling that’s where the Haven ships will appear. He’s wrong. Imagine the horror Honor and her colleagues feel when over 100 Haven ships, including 35 mega-ships, appear out of nowhere and start toward them and they only have some five or six to defend themselves with. Reinforcements are on the way, however, so if they can just hold them off for a few hours, the space station there might be saved, as well as Honor and her mates. Through Honor’s ingenuity, they release hundreds of missiles at the Haven fleet and score some direct hits, destroying some ships in the process. The Haven commander is ticked! They go after Honor and score some hits of their own. Some of Honor’s colleagues are blown up and Honor’s ship is hit, but not too badly. Then, tah dah, reinforcements! And the Haven fleet takes off. And the main Manticore fleet that had been lying in wait goes to Haven’s space station and destroys it and the rest of Haven’s fleet. It’s over. Honor has saved the day. My only complaint is we don’t get to see the battle at Haven’s space station with their fleet being decimated. Oh well. That would have made the book a lot bigger, I guess.

I do have one complaint with this book and with this series. It’s sci fi. They have hyperspace, hyper drives. They can travel light years in a very short period of time. They can have video communications with each other within systems. But not out of the systems. They actually have to rely on courier boats to send messages to each other, like “We’ve been attacked,” or something to that effect, and it can take 11 days or 17 days, etc. It seems utterly stupid to me. You’re telling me that three or four thousand years from now with huge space ships and laser beams and hyperspace travel, you have to send messages by boats??? WTF??? That’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard! I don’t know what Weber was thinking when he came up with that system, but I’m not impressed. However, that complaint aside, it’s still a fun read and a great series and I’m already looking forward to the next one. Definitely recommended.

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